Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:  Chris Smith
Date: Nov. 16, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Madam Speaker, almost 40 years ago, this body heard the cries of the Jewish refuseniks trapped behind the Iron Curtain, and it passed the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which brilliantly linked the free movement of goods with the free movement of people. It was a congressional initiative, opposed by the White House, which sought ``reset'' at all costs--at that time it was called ``detente''--with Russia.

It's a sad commentary on what the Russian people continue to suffer that now, more than 40 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we meet in the same House Chamber to struggle with similar issues.

Russia is now a market economy and permits emigration, but human rights and the rule of law are trampled with impunity and often violence. Since Jackson-Vanik--a marvelous tool for promoting human rights in the seventies and eighties--doesn't address Russia's current problems, we need a new tool. The need for one should be evident to anyone who follows the news. Madam Speaker, the Magnitsky provisions of the trade bill we are considering provide such a tool.

These tools couldn't be timelier as some lament a perceived decline in American influence abroad. The Magnitsky sanctions shouldn't cost us a dime--and the howls from the Kremlin suggest we are on to something. While threats like cutting off aid or military cooperation mean nothing to the Russians, its kleptocratic elite deeply value access to the West. The privilege of a U.S. visa affords a measure of respectability as well as a quick exit for those who worry daily that somebody may be held to account for the crimes against their countrymen. Further, corrupt Russian officials know better than to keep their fortunes inside Russia, risking confiscation by other corrupt officials.

The penalties imposed by Jackson-Vanik applied to the entire Russian economy, but those envisioned by the Magnitsky legislation look to personal responsibility and target the individual bad actor. What this bill is saying is that murderers and torturers are not welcome in this country. I would certainly hope that we are not so compromised in our security and commercial relations that to publicly name and shame these individuals would be seen to hurt our interests. It is a great bill, and it will have, hopefully, good, strong bipartisan support.


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