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Public Statements

Russia and Moldova PNTR

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. SHAHEEN. Mr. President, I rise today in strong support of the legislation before us, the repeal for Jackson-Vanik for Russia and Moldova and the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act.

The two main components of this package represent a win-win for U.S. businesses and for human rights defenders in Russia. Chairman Baucus and Chairman Kerry deserve a lot of credit for working together to get us to this point.

I also want to join my colleague Senator Durbin in singling out and commending Senator Cardin of Maryland for his tremendous effort to bring this historic piece of human rights legislation to the floor tonight.

As one of the original cosponsors of the Magnitsky Act, I remember back in May of last year when Senator Cardin first introduced the bill. Since that time, he has been the driving force that has pushed this measure forward. It has taken a lot of patience, a lot of perseverance, but his work on behalf of human rights in Russia has paid off, and he is a big reason why we are here debating this bill today.

This legislation comes at a complex time in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Russia. The truth is the history of this relationship has always been full of complexity and seeming contradictions, and today is no different.

Over the last 4 years the subtle change in tone brought on by the reset has allowed us to establish substantial progress on some limited areas of mutual interests including the New START Treaty, Afghanistan, and Iran.

In addition, Russia has finally joined the World Trade Organization, which is another mutually beneficial outcome. Russia will become a more fully engaged member of the global trade community, and in exchange it will be forced to abide by internationally recognized rules on trade and investment, including international property enforcement, the elimination of some key tariffs, and greater transparency in its laws and regulations.

Despite these obvious advantages for the United States, our businesses are currently stuck on the sidelines and unable to benefit from Russia's accession because of the outdated Jackson-Vanik legislation. Although it was successful in its time, Jackson-Vanik remains the last obstacle for U.S. businesses to gain critical access to Russian markets and create jobs here at home.

The legislation before us now retires Jackson-Vanik and lets American businesses compete with the rest of the world to sell exports to and attract investment from Russia. Each and every State stands to gain from this legislation. In my home State of New Hampshire, exports to Russia have been on the rise over the last 2 years, particularly with respect to transportation equipment, computers, electronics, and machinery. If given the opportunity, I am confident that New Hampshire businesses will be able to successfully compete in the growing Russian market, and this legislation will help them to do that. So even as we seek areas of mutual interest with Russia, we should be honest and admit that areas of disagreement remain.

Perhaps the most pressing issue for today's relationship with Russia is the human rights situation there. Indeed, over the last 6 months we have seen perhaps the worst deterioration in Russia's human rights record since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Putin government has enacted a series of laws that restrict protests and public expression and severely constrain civil society in the country.

As some may know, my home State of New Hampshire has a motto that is well known throughout this country. It is: ``Live free or die.'' We are not ambiguous regarding how we feel about the principles on which this country was founded. The United States is not, should not, and will not be shy about our staunch support for democratic values around the world. When it comes to Russia, we should be no different.

The Magnitsky bill before us is an important tool to raise the profile of human rights in Russia. It is supported almost unanimously by opposition and civil society figures across Russia. The case of Mr. Magnitsky is a tragic one, as so many people have eloquently talked about today. We are here as part of this legislation to press for accountability in his death. However, this is really more than simply a question of one man's tragic case.

The State Department's human rights report annually describes countless human rights violations, including attacks on journalists, physical abuse of citizens, politically motivated imprisonments, and government harassment and violence. There are numerous cases like Magnitsky and, unfortunately, there are likely to be many more.

That is why this bill before us is so important. It seeks to ensure that no human rights abusers in Russia are granted the privilege of traveling to this country or using our financial system. A strong, successful, and transparent Russia that protects the rights of its citizens is squarely in the interest of the United States. The Magnitsky Act will demonstrate that we stand unambiguously for the rule of law, for democracy, and for respect for human rights in Russia.

As we look forward and think about our relationship with Russia, we have to be both pragmatic and principled. A successful policy with Russia will find a way to both protect our interests and defend our values. I think the legislation that is before us today is a perfect example of how we can do both, and I certainly hope my colleagues will strongly support its passage and send it directly to the President for his signature.

Thank you very much.


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