18 December 2012, 20:04

Magnitsky Act protects olygarchs' interests

Magnitsky Act protects olygarchs' interests
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As controversy flares on over the so-called Magnitsky Act passed in the United States, most experts attribute this extremely unfriendly gesture towards the Russian establishment to the narrow-mindedness, if not foolishness, of American lawmakers. But controversial as it may seem, the Magnitsky Act was drafted in such a way as to enable influential oligarchic clans to exploit it in their economic interests.

For some reason, the U.S. government has focused on the protection of human rights and freedoms specifically in Russia, whose people, it should be said, do not need to be patronized by the U.S. in order to feel free. The fact that the Magnitsky Act became part of a law regulating economic relations proves what may not be immediately obvious, namely that political intrigues are usually driven by practical interests, says Assistant Dean of the World Politics Faculty of the Moscow State University (MGU) Andrei Sidorov.

"Any law, and especially this one, offers an opportunity to crush competitors by all means available, up to putting them on a “black list” - in this case the “Magnitsky list”. The Magnitsky law reflects the interests of a lobby that seeks to prevent its competitor from coming onto the U.S. market. Russia’s membership in the World Trade Organization implies broader trade contacts. Russian business, or at least its innovative part, may potentially appear on the American market. The “Magnitsky list” is a wonderful opportunity to prevent that."

The above list is an open one. Moreover, it has no definite criteria, which means that there are no arguments whatsoever a suspected wrongdoer could use to prove his innocence. Because supporting human rights in Russia is not what the Magnitsky Act is really meant to achieve.

A New York University professor and an expert on Russia, Stephen Cohen, likened the adoption of the Magnitsky Act by U.S. lawmakers to the aggressive behavior of a drunken street gang. He expects numerous lobbying groups and all sorts of intrigues to blossom around the Magnitsky Act. These groups will reel around key lawmakers, whispering into their ears which of the bad Russian guys deserve to be punished, while oligarchs will use such groups to square accounts with and set up their rivals and take away the property these rivals have in the United States, Professor Cohen remarks.

The Magnitsky Act may seriously hamper cooperation between Russia and the U.S. over important issues such as the struggle against international terrorism, drug trafficking and slave trade. Pessimists fear cooperation may be curtailed along all key avenues. As Professor Cohen said, Russia and the United Sates lived apart throughout the “Сold War” years, and now the Magnitsky Act will drive them even farther apart.

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