Stalin would be proud.
Today Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill barring Americans from adopting Russian children. The objective of the bill had absolutely nothing to do with American adoptions, both Russian and American analysts agree. The law is retaliation for various American measures that punished or embarrassed Russia for various human rights violations. One of these was the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which mandated financial and visa sanctions on corrupt Russian officials linked to the arrest and imprisonment of Magnitsky, a lawyer who discovered a $230 million tax fraud and was then arrested by the same police officers he had accused of the fraud. He was sentenced to prison and died there in 2009.
The adoption ban is itself a human rights violation.
It ended the adoption efforts of U.S. families that had been waiting months and even years to adopt a Russian orphan, and at the same time altered forever the lives of the parentless children who had an opportunity to join a loving family and to face a brighter future, and now will continue to live in squalid conditions, institutionalized and warehoused by the over-burdened Russian orphanage system.
They are far from alone. It is estimated that Russia has more than 700,000 orphans now, and a relatively tiny number of Russian families with the desire and means to adopt any of them. In contrast, more than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted into American families over the last two decades—including my own son. The difference between his life and future today and what he would have endured had he remained in Russia is too stark to contemplate.
I visited Russian orphanages in 1995—the grim surroundings, the sparse staffs, the dedicated but overwhelmed administrators and caretakers who begged us to adopt two, three, five children, because it was their only chance to escape loneliness, illness, psychological damage and poverty. The beautiful, desperate, pleading three and four-year-olds who were paraded before us still haunt me. I had to leave the tour in tears. It upsets me now, even to write about those children. I dare not think about what became of them while my son was growing up a healthy, happy, loved American boy.
Of the bill, Putin had said “I have not seen any reason why I should not sign it.” This could only mean that he has never seen the plight of the children in his nation’s own orphanages, or that he doesn’t see any reasons why the most helpless and vulnerable in Russian shouldn’t be used as sacrificed pawns in the ruthless chess game of international diplomacy. In either case, he is behaving like a heartless monster.
Russia is the most powerful remnant of the Soviet Union that Ronald Reagan called an “evil empire,” and the new law demonstrates once again that evil, once embraced, is almost impossible to banish. Reagan was attacked and mocked for using the word.
Tell me, what is a better description for a government that punishes the orphans it cannot care for to achieve diplomatic vengeance?
Calling it merely “nnethical” doesn’t do this conduct justice.
Graphic: Families for Orphans