In what may or may not be taken as a preview of U.S. policy toward Russia under President Barack Obama’s second term, Amb. Michael McFaul gave quite a tepid description of the Magnitsky Act to an Interfax journalist today:
Q.: The U.S. State Department’s approval of the ‘Magnitsky list’ has drawn an extremely harsh reaction from Moscow. Is it true that Washington may extend this list by putting on it officials involved in the Leonid Razvozzhayev and/or Pussy Riot cases?
A.: There is a fundamental misunderstanding about this issue. Let me try to clear it up. We have a presidential decree that’s built on a set of regulations that the State Department already had in place, the Bush administration put them in place, we then strengthened them under President Obama. And I can send you the link, so you could have it.
So the secretary of state and the State Department and the U.S. government, the executive branch of the government is already empowered by President Obama to deny visas to all individuals from all over the world, not just Russia, if we assessed that they have grossly violated human rights of individuals. It’s already in place. And it is a long, long list, by the way. There is a notion that it’s just about this one case, just about Russia. It’s a misconception. So the powers to do that are already in place. What we don’t do is we don’t publish these lists. There is a reason for that. Because we believe in the rule of law. You do not have a right according to the American constitution to come to my country. It is not your right, according to our constitution. It’s a privilege. Just the same it is a privilege for Americans to come to Russia. And your government gets to decide who comes to and who doesn’t. By the way I think you decided that Mr. Browder can’t come to your country, the Russian government decided. It is the sovereign right of every country.