Russia Responds to U.S. by Punishing Orphans

The new antiadoption law harms Russia's interests. It's also plain mean.

50,000 Russian have been successfully adopted in the United States since 1991. I know people who raised their adoptive children from the former Soviet Union with great sacrifice and immense love, including paying for operations, such as cleft palate correction, which would otherwise condemn the children to life in orphanages. The deaths of these adoptees is significantly lower (19 cases altogether) than among kids adopted domestically by Russians (over 1200). In the United States, 500-700 children die yearly by the hands of their parents. In Russia, with half the population, up to 1,500-2,000 die this way annually.

The plight of the Russian kids who cannot be adopted is tragic. Even more so is the domestic crackdown that started in the beginning of last year and the deliberate hostility towards the United States and its policies.

Vladimir Putin publicly stated that “’reset’ was not our term”—effectively distancing himself from the Obama-Medvedev policy, of which he approved and which Medvedev carried out with his boss’s blessing. This statement by the Russian president effectively hammers in the last nail in “reset’s” coffin.

The question is, now what?

It is time for the Obama Administration to wake up and smell the vodka. “Reset” is not working in the geopolitical or humanitarian sphere. Even business relations are affected, as Russia has now banned imports of $500 million of U.S. meat a year.

The reset failed to produce U.S.-Russian understandings about Syria and Iran. Moscow is effectively flying diplomatic cover for the Assad regime because the U.S. and Europe fail to effectively prevent radical Islamists from taking a lead among the resistance. Moscow scoffed repeatedly at the EU and U.S. sanctions against the Iran and repeatedly stated that it opposes further sanctions, let alone other, harsher actions that may be necessary.

The Kremlin is reviving the rail-based ICBM deployment—a direct throwback to the 1970s and 1980s Cold War posture—as Russian demands for effective limitations on missile defense or U.S. technology sharing fail to impress even Obama administration arms control doves.

Ukraine and Georgia are in the process of falling into the Russian sphere of influence. More pro-Russian leaders taking over in 2010 and 2012 respectively, with nary a squeak from Washington.

The Russian media and the Duma are in the throes of an unprecedented anti-American pitch, similar to what the country experienced under its communist rulers from Stalin to Andropov and Chernenko. Some Russian bloggers and even members of the Federal Council who support the “Dima Yakovlev law” insinuated that Americans adopt Russian children to sell their organs, or they prefer disabled children in order to get federal support for taking care of them.

One wonders if U.S.-Russian relations have passed a point of no return. Certainly we appear to be sliding toward a prolonged confrontation—something that, in the long term, is in neither country’s interest.

Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy at The Heritage Foundation.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Errabee. CC BY-SA 3.0.