On Wednesday, the US Senate Finance Committee approved a bill combining a repeal of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and a measure aiming to punish Russian officials involved in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) said, “By enacting PNTR (permanent normal trade relations), together with the Magnitsky bill, we’re replacing Jackson-Vanik with legislation that addresses the corruption and accountability issues that Russia confronts today”. The new bill is a response to the demands of a majority of lawmakers for a review of legislation affecting trade and human rights issues, including some laws affecting trade with Russia.
Baucus said that the proposal to add the Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act to the PNTR legislation “will help fight human rights abuses in Russia”. He said that Russia would formally be a member of the WTO next month, and “that’s our deadline for passing PNTR. There’s no time to waste, America risks being left behind. If we miss that deadline, American farmers, ranchers, workers, and businesses will lose out to the other 154 members of the WTO that already have PNTR with Russia. American workers will lose the jobs created to China, Canada, and Europe when Russia, the world’s seventh largest economy, joins the WTO and opens its market to the world”.
The Senate began studying the issue in mid-March, along with amendments from Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), including proposals for visa sanctions against Russians allegedly involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a tax lawyer working for the Hermitage Capital investment company, who died in custody in Russia in 2009. Cops arrested Magnitsky on tax evasion charges in November 2008, days after accusing police investigators of involvement in a 230 million USD (7.37 billion Roubles. 188 million Euros. 147 million UK Pounds) tax refund fraud, and died after almost a year in Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention centre in Moscow.
In turn, Russian investigators accused Magnitsky and Hermitage of tax evasion. Last week, a group of Russian senators went to the USA to present what they claimed was new evidence of Magnitsky and Hermitage’s guilt. A probe into his death revealed that the lawyer, who was suffering from untreated pancreatitis and a heart condition, didn’t receive proper medical treatment. Human rights activists pointed to multiple violations of his rights during his arrest and in detention, including signs that prison guards beat him hours before his death. Russia warned it’d respond to the adoption of the Magnitsky bill in kind, imposing restrictions on US officials. In July 2011, the US State Department issued visa bans on several dozen Russian officials in connection to the Magnitsky case. In response, Russia imposed travel bans on several US officials.
In mid-March, a group of influential US senators, including former Republican presidential candidate John McCain, proposed cancelling the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, but simultaneously adopting the Magnitsky bill. The Jackson-Vanik Amendment, passed in 1974, barred favourable trade relations with the USSR because it wouldn’t let Jews freely emigrate. Often, waivers override the restrictions imposed by Jackson-Vanik, but they remain in place, and are a thorn in the side of Russia-US trade relations.
The Magnitsky case, along with the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, and the rift over the Syrian crisis, are major stumbling blocks in the “reset” of US-Russian relations. The Obama administration, which was evasive about the proposed legislation, said on 18 June that it considers it necessary to distinguish between the adoption of the Magnitsky blacklist and the repeal of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment.
18 July 2012
Americans (especially Anglo-Saxon Proddies) have a lotta damned gall. They think that they’re moral paragons and exemplars for the entire world to imitate. If they don’t receive total and obsequious adulation, they go off and pout; they’re violent and nasty, if their interlocutor’s weak enough. In the case of Russia and China, which are strong enough to deter American violence and aggression, the Americans issue threats and do their best to blacken their reputation (or, at least, attempt to do so).
Hermitage Capital is incorporated in Guernsey (it also has offices in the Cayman Islands, another stronghold of laissez-faire corporate non-regulation (which makes it one of Willard Romney‘s fave locations)), which has notoriously lax incorporation laws. In short, it’s a crank organisation run by crooks. For them to complain of fraud on the part of Russian officials is downright laughable. Ben Cardin’s a joke, too… he’s part of the notoriously corrupt Balto area Democratic machine, which makes Yuri Luzhkov look like a piker (in other words, they’re the General Motors of corruption as compared to Luzhkov’s Acme Products operation).
All in all, it’s a perfect illustration of the hypocrisy and overweening hubris of the American Anglo-Saxon Proddie. If the USSR ceased to exist in 1991, why did the USA keep Jackson-Vanik in place after its demise? In the same vein, the Americans tightened the screws on Cuba after 1991… in the hopes of overthrowing Fidel (who make them look like fools in Latin America). These naked efforts to export the American “system” failed, and all that they did was nourish hatred and resentment of the USA and the American people. We have much to answer for as a people, I’m afraid… and the fact that we didn’t personally support it doesn’t matter. It was done in our name, and we didn’t stop it. God do help us…