Can US-Russia relations get back on track after human rights blacklists?
President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are hinting at hopes of getting past disputes over human rights to issues of mutual interest to the two powers, like missile defense.
After the battle of the blacklists, can the US-Russia relationship get back on track?
The leaders of both countries on Monday signaled a desire to move beyond a recent deterioration in what were already brittle relations. Last Friday, the United States released a list of 18 Russians subject to sanctions for alleged involvement in human rights abuses – prompting Russia to retaliate over the weekend with its own list of 18 Americans targeted for similar sanctions.
The tit for tat of blacklists, which some US-Russia analysts describe as more worthy of the cold-war era, is the outcome of laws passed in 2012. After the US Congress approved a law targeting Russian human rights abusers, Russia retaliated with its own law banning adoptions of Russian children by Americans and providing for the targeting of US rights abusers.
The US law was named the Magnitsky Act after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian tax collector who reported hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen tax receipts, only to be thrown in prison, where he died in 2009. The Russian legislation approved in December was named for Dima Yakovlev, a Russian boy who died in 2008 after his adoption by a Virginia family.
Now President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are hinting at their hopes for getting past the Magnitsky and Yakovlev affairs to issues of mutual interest to the two powers, like missile defense and nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.