Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina&rsq uo;s column here.
For Americans who understand the importance of a cooperative US-Russia relationship, 2012 was a disturbing year. The attempted “reset” in relations—launched by the Obama administration in 2009—proved a failure, as Washington continued to develop unneeded missile defense installations near Russia’s border, Russia passed legislation imperiling the status of US-funded nongovernmental organizations working in the country and the bloody civil wars in Libya and Syria created new misunderstandings and diplomatic vitriol between Moscow and Washington.
Until now, very few US observers have had the foresight to warn of what we may now be witnessing—the onset of a new Cold War. My husband, Stephen F. Cohen, is one of the few: In articles in The Nation since the 1990s—see more recently his March 2012 article, “America’s Failed Bipartisan Russia Policy,” and his 2010 paperback, Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives—he has repeatedly warned that unless US policy toward post-Soviet Russia changed, we risked plunging into a new Cold War.
That possibility emerged clearly last month when, in the space of a few weeks, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin both signed punitive bills into law: the United States’ Magnitsky Act and Russia’s adoption ban, or “Dima’s Law.” Both leaders signed with reluctance, but neither president proved willing to defy nearly unanimous legislatures bent on passing unwise legislation. As Russia experts Vladimir Sobell, Edward Lozansky and Cohen warned at TheNation.com, “The ‘Magnitsky Act’ violates the rule of law, contradicts American values and undermines US national security.” Framed by its supporters as a human rights bill that would punish officials implicated in the prison death of a Russian attorney, the law is actually more sweeping, a requirement that the executive branch punish individual Russians based on unproven allegations, without any due process.
Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.