A good piece from Peter Rutland in the Moscow Times points out that for all the bitterness and wild conspiracy theories Russian pundits are throwing at the Magnitsky Act, there really isn’t any good reason for the US to do it besides human rights.
Russian critics are convinced that the Magnitsky Act is part of some devious scheme to isolate Russia, but they cannot come up with any specific ways in which the U.S. would benefit from such a strategy. On the contrary, the U.S. stands to pay a considerable price if Russia were to respond by, for example, shutting down the northern route that gives the U.S. transit access to Afghanistan.
The primary factor motivating the U.S. response are the outrageous facts of Magnitsky’s treatment. Then-President Dmitry Medvedev’s own human rights commission reported in July 2011 that Magnitsky was probably beaten prior to his death.
Russia will never succeed in its campaign to be accepted as a regular member of the community of nations if it doesn’t realize that human rights really matter. Nor will there be any benefit from spending millions of dollars on campaigns to promote Russia’s “soft power” if the message those media carry is a crude defense of indefensible actions by Russian officials.