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White House on Khodorkovsky

The Washington Post has a commentary on its editorial page today with regard to the White House statement on the Khodorkovsky trial, which they view as a good first step, but long overdue and less than sufficient to produce change.  Also see the recent editorial over at CSM which slams the Obama administration for trying to play a double game in its reset diplomacy with Russia at the cost of rule of law.

The Obama administration on Monday added its voice to the condemnations across the democratic world of Mr. Khodorkovsky’s prosecution. A White House statement said the case “appears to be an abusive use of the legal system for improper ends,” adding that Russia’s failure to respect the rule of law “impedes its own modernization and ability to deepen its ties with the United States.”

That’s stronger rhetoric than this president has previously employed with Russia. But it will have little impact unless the administration acts on its hint that the good relations Moscow seeks with the West are at stake. The way to support the alternative that Mr. Medvedev supposedly represents is to enforce accountability for human rights abuses – such as sanctions against those responsible for Mr. Khodorkovsky’s prosecution. Support for Russia’s membership in the World Trade Organization, including congressional repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, should be put on hold.

If there are no such consequences for the Khodorkovsky case, Mr. Putin’s victory will be complete – and Mr. Obama’s diplomacy wasted.