IN HER column “Putin is brilliantly wicked” (Op-ed, Jan. 7), Juliette Kayyem missed one important point: the increasingly prosperous Russia may be capable of taking care of its own children. By forbidding Americans to adopt Russian children, Vladimir Putin not only continued a political tit-for-tat with the United States, but he also sent a message to his compatriots: let’s take care of our own.
Paradoxically, both the Magnitsky Act — legislation that forbids Russia’s violators of human rights to travel to the US — and the plight of the homeless Russian children stem from the same disastrous event: the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Prior to that event, Russia had a statewide safety net for children, and no traveling oligarchs buying properties in the United States.
Certainly, there were violations of human rights in the Soviet era, and the Jackson-Vanick Amendment successfully confronted that, but Russian children were not a part of geopolitical games.
The collapse of the Soviet Union did not improve Russia’s human rights, but it did ruin its social safety nets, steady employment, and morale — and the biggest losers were children. Let’s hope that Putin’s government will be able to repair that ruin.