Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Dec. 27 that he will sign legislation passed by both chambers of the Russian Parliament to ban adoptions of Russian orphans by American parents. The legislation was passed in retaliation for a new American law that targets a pattern of corruption and human rights violations in Russia.
Beneath it all is a simmering resentment among Russian nationalists that their country is treated as a welfare case rather than the powerful, imperial nation that it was a few decades ago--and a sense of shame that Russia has yet to regain its former geopolitical strength, even with the oil-driven economic recovery of recent years.
The passage of the U.S. law, the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, follows the path of the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which made investment and trade benefits contingent on Soviet progress in human rights, including the right to emigrate. Whereas Jackson-Vanik was partly a response to restrictions on the emigration of Soviet Jews, the Magnitsky Act has now been followed by restrictions on the emigration of Russian children, who are effectively being held hostage to the pride--and shame--of the Putin regime.
Also left stranded are thousands of American parents who had dreamed of adopting children from Russia to raise as their own, and who must now explore options elsewhere, even after the two countries had just signed a bilateral treaty on adoptions. As an increasingly authoritarian Russia closes itself off from the world, the victims are ordinary people--and children--on both sides of an old and perhaps re-emerging global divide.