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Cold War Throwback

Writing in The New York Times today, op-ed contributor David Harris argues for doing away with the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, a US federal law from 1974 whose aim was to push the Soviet Union to let Russians, especially religious minorities, to emigrate.

He calls on the US Congress to “recognize reality and graduate Russia from this throwback to the Cold War”.

Washington is sending the wrong message to Moscow, especially at a time of improving bilateral ties between our two countries and growing cooperation on such pressing issues as Iran’s nuclear program.

It also raises questions about our credibility. Today, no one doubts that Russians who wish to emigrate have the right to do so. Apropos, if millions were to exercise that option, it is absolutely certain that the U.S. would not admit all, or even most of them. Meanwhile, Russia and Israel have signed a visa-free agreement, meaning that citizens of both countries can travel back and forth without a visa, another sign of the free movement of people.

Three successive American presidents — Clinton, Bush and Obama — have supported the graduation of Russia from the strictures of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, but, regrettably, without results to date.

Interestingly, in speaking about improving bilateral ties, the piece makes no mention of Russia’s apparent disregard for the recently-imposed sanctions against Iran by offering the country help in the energy sector. And speaking of throwbacks to the Cold War, wasn’t there some Russian spy debacle recently?