Published 29-12-2012, 13:29
William Dunkerley is media business analyst and consultant
Are American and Russian legislators competing to see who is the most foolish? First, American legislators passed the Magnitsky bill to punish Russia for "human rights violations." In retaliation, Russian legislators enacted the Dima Yakovlev bill as punishment to America. President Obama has signed his bill into law. As of this writing, president Putin has not yet followed suit. Does he really have to join in this foolish game and open the door to another round?
Putin has called the Magnitsky bill an unacceptable humiliation of the country. But I've seen him handle apparent humiliation with great magnanimity before. I was present in 2006 when he addressed the World Newspaper Congress in the State Kremlin Palace. Three National Bolsheviks penetrated security and tried to disrupt his speech, chanting their rallying cry "Russia without Putin." With great aplomb the president calmly explained to his audience that the hall they were in had been built by the Communists to host Party Congresses. "It's true," Putin glibly remarked, that "Bolsheviks still come to this hall, but now in a different capacity."
The audience chuckled. Putin looked the statesman, the Bolsheviks the fools.
That's the Putin who could constructively resolve the current tit-for-tat situation.
President Obama, before signing the Magnitsky bill, had never been in favor of it. He publically stated that it is unnecessary. Indeed, it is not even an American initiative. My research has found it was sponsored by international provocateurs who apparently seek to destabilize the Russian state and delegitimize its leaders. There have been other anti-Russian assaults that were very professionally advanced by spinning the media. Headlines chronicled stories such as "Russia invades Georgia," and "Kremlin murders journalists."
For himself, Obama must deal with many members of Congress who, believe me, do not realize that they are being manipulated. So now Obama has signed into law a bill that is based on false premises. And that leaves your president to decide whether to respond in kind to this provocation.
It is hard to imagine a more inopportune time for him to be making that decision. The Dima Yakolev bill curtails the adoption of Russian children by Americans. Meanwhile America is struggling to recover from the mass murder of 20 children in Newtown in my home state of Connecticut. Signing that bill would seem like piling on.
What can the president do in such a situation? I think Putin would only benefit if people here could come to understand what he is dealing with. Few Americans know that Russia has non-state enemies who maliciously seek to destabilize the country and undermine the constitution. It would be wise if your president would explain all that to Obama as soon as possible. And then he should explain to Americans directly that their government is making matters worse for everyone by its misguided attempts to influence Russia's domestic affairs.