Kristine Kaiser: Russia turns children into political pawns

Jan. 05, 2013 @ 12:54 AM

Winston Churchill was never certain about Russia. He said, (Russia) “is a riddle wrapped inside a mystery inside an enigma.” He did not make predictions about the country.
Still, we can be sure that tensions are now rising between the former superpower and the United States. Russia recently responded to the passed Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law that prevents human rights violators from entering our country.
Sergei Magnitsky was a whistle-blower and lawyer who died in a Russian prison after reportedly being refused medical attention for a serious illness. The act bears his name.
Russia’s political retaliation comes in the form of its own law that now bans our citizens from adopting Russian orphans. Americans have adopted 60,000 Russian orphans over the last 20 years. It seems that needy children are being made political pawns.
The blocked adoption measure might seem petty, but it heralds an increasing rift between our two nations. The adoption ban is about Russian pride. It is about the hubris of a country that mostly remembers its past.
Russian orphanages are some of the worst in the world; they are institutions. They are cold and sterile. Yet, Russian lawmakers prefer having their kids in them as opposed to American homes. The U.S. adoption ban only hurts Russian children.
A greater problem for us is Syria, where people are also harmed. Russia’s over-sized identity is the source of trouble.
Syria’s civil war rocks the entire Middle East region. Russia backs the government. Russia is the primary supporter of the Assad regime. Russia used its veto power on the U.N. Security Council to shield a solid ally from international sanctions. Russia is a noted player on the world scene. Under Putin’s leadership, nationalism borders on fantasy. Putin has a strong image and does not seem willing to give an inch. Indeed, when it comes to power, Russia has an antiquated sense of its own importance. It is the little dog that bites. Its noise can be heard around the room. It insists that it is a force.
Mitt Romney, in the 2012 presidential campaign, asserted that Russia is our No. 1 foe. He bought into Russia’s inflated identity; he fell for its hype. The state was once a mighty power. History will not let us forget the Soviet Union or the Cold War of the 1950s and early 1960s.
But we should not defer to the former superpower. U.S.-Russian relations must be looked at from a new perspective. Our relations must be revamped to take into account a new power hierarchy.
The U.S. must hold Russia accountable for its support of Bashar Assad. Assad must go, and it’s time for national resolve. Assad has terrorized his own people. There will be no peace until he resigns. The U.S. must use its clout to install new leadership in Syria. If that means confronting the Russian state, so be it.  I think that we have been too weak.
When we said that we were going to “reset” our relations, I think that enabled the Russians’ false sense of importance; we would change everything. We would back down that far.
With the adoption ban, the Russians wanted to send a message to the United States.
Our message back to them should be that their significance is exaggerated. They are backing a cruel tyrant, and their relevance in the world community is diminishing.

Kristine Kaiser is a writer living in Kernersville. Contact her for comments at: Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.