Last week, the U.S. Senate unanimously condemned Russia’s new draconian law—whose victims are Russian orphans and Russian democracy.
Around Christmas last year, the Russian Duma hastily passed, and President Vladimir Putin signed, The Dima Yakovlev Law, named after an adopted child from Russia who died in 2008 after being abandoned by his dad in a sweltering SUV. The law banned the successful practice of U.S. adoption of Russian orphans. The Russian government, however, forgot about the popular wisdom: When in a hole, stop digging.
This law is aimed to retaliate against the Magnitsky Law—passed by the U.S. Congress—which did the work of the Russian government in enforcing Russian law against murderers of a whistleblower who uncovered rampant fraud and corruption that cost Russian taxpayers $230 million.
The Dima Yakovlev law is a serious, self-inflicted PR wound. Moscow unwittingly attracted worldwide attention to Russian orphans’ horrific plight. Parents in Russia give up kids because of minor birth defects, such as a cleft palate, or because of parental alcoholism and prostitution.
Since 1991, 50,000 Russian kids have been successfully adopted in the U.S.. American parents raise their adoptive Russian children with great sacrifice and immense love, including paying for operations such as cleft palate correction that would otherwise condemn the children to a life in an orphanage. The death rate of these adoptees is significantly lower (19 cases altogether) than kids adopted in Russia by Russians (more than 1,200).
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), more than 600,000 children are kept in Russian orphanages. Many are neglected and denied adequate medical care, while the government of Russia “admits” that it provides for “only” 110,000 orphans—a huge discrepancy.
Many Russian leaders, including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov, Education Minister Dmitry Livanov, and others opposed the Dima Yakovlev law, dubbed “cannibals’ law” and “Herod’s law” by the Russian opposition and the media. However, with the executive branch-controlled Constitutional Court, chances of legal annulment of this shameful piece of legislation on appeal are nil.
The Dima Yakovlev Law, other repressive domestic measures, and foreign policy confrontations over Syria and missile defense signify the rapid deterioration in the ties between Moscow and Washington. Clearly, the “reset” is not working. One wonders if the U.S.–Russia relations have passed a point of no return. We may be sliding toward a prolonged confrontation, which in the long term is in neither country’s interest.