Thursday, July 28, 2011

Our Stupid Congress: Russia Edition

Much of the focus in the United States, and the world for that matter, has been on the totally manufactured crisis our Congress has whipped up over the ordinarily mundane act of raising the nation's debt limit. But its good to know that while plunging the national economy into peril, Congress can also screw up foreign policy at the same time.

Right now Congress is threatening to plunge US-Russian relations with a piece of legislation designed to scold the Russians for not living up to our standards of human rights. The “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011” is named for a noted Russian anti-corruption lawyer who died in a Russian prison in 2009 allegedly after being beaten by his captors, who then denied him medical treatment. The bill targets his captors, as well as any other Russian officials as deemed by our Congress “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of human rights.” Now the treatment of Magnitsky was horrible and is yet another low point for the concept of the Rule of Law in Russia. But this bill is nothing more than some political grandstanding by a collection of blowhard American politicians whose view of Russia stopped evolving sometime around the release of the movie Red Dawn.

What they overlook is the deep cooperation between the US and Russia in several key areas, cooperation the Russians are threatening to curtail if the Magnitsky Act were to become law. Among these key areas of cooperation are logistical support for the ongoing military mission in Afghanistan , the so-called “Northern Route” into Afghanistan, which avoids Pakistan entirely; not to mention that the Russians are now our taxi service to and from the International Space Station, without the Russians our astronauts will have to hitchhike home.

If Congress really wanted take up the mantle of human rights, they could always introduce the Tienanmen Square (or Uighur or Ai Weiwei) Accountability Act demanding that China follow international norms in human rights or face a total ban on their imports to the United States, of course such an act would require our politicians to take a meaningful and principled stand on a serious issue that would have an impact on the lives of tens of millions of Americans, which is something the current Congress likes to avoid at all costs.

Or our Congress could simply stop telling the rest of the world how they should govern their affairs until they get their own house in order and stop behaving like a bunch of squabbling eight-year olds, since frankly the current state of affairs in our government is downright embarrassing.
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