First, Russian authorities decided to ban the import of American beef and pork because of a feed additive that Russian regulators have somehow suddenly discovered is allegedly unsafe for Russian consumers. The exclusion from the Russian market of American meat exports will only cause US exporters to ship these products to the next most available export market. This measure will cost US producers a few million dollars a year at most, while also increasing costs for Russian consumers, which is hardly an impressive retaliatory measure designed to shock and awe.
The Duma discussed the creation of various “blacklists” of US officials and other citizens who will be denied visas and whose Russian bank accounts will be frozen. The proposals were met with widespread ridicule, and merely underlined the obvious fact that most Americans don’t think of Russia as either the safe haven of choice for their savings or a particularly desirable place for a second home. The measure merely provided new fodder for humorists bent on mocking Russia’s officialdom. Nonetheless, the just signed legislation creates such a blacklist, notwithstanding its obvious ineffectiveness.
The best thing Russian authorities could have done would have been to vigorously investigate the circumstances of Magnitsky’s death and to bring any guilty parties to justice. Perversely, they may now resist this course of action because of the perception that it was done in response to American legislation.