Rus­sia trade, rights bill ap­proved

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Byjimabrams

WAShINGTON — A Rus­sian trade and hu­man rights bill cleared Congress and headed for Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture Thurs­day, open­ing new ex­port op­por­tu­ni­ties for Amer­i­can busi­nesses but antagonizing re­la­tions with Rus­sia over its treat­ment of dis­si­dents.

The Moscow government, while wel­com­ing bet­ter trade re­la­tions, threat­ened re­tal­i­a­tion over a sec­tion of the bill that would pun­ish Rus­sian of­fi­cials who al­legedly com­mit hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions.

A Rus­sian par­lia­ment of­fi­cial sug­gested sanc­tions could be im­posed on U.S. of­fi­cials ac­cused of rights vi­o­la­tions in Afghanistan, Iraq and else­where while the For­eign Min­istry said the leg­is­la­tion “will have a neg­a­tive im­pact on bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion” and re­spon­si­bil­ity for that will “com­pletely lie with the United States.”

Sen. John McCain, RAriz., a main spon­sor of the hu­man rights mea­sure with Sen. Ben Cardin, DMd., con­tended it would help the Rus­sian peo­ple by “send­ing a sig­nal to Vladimir Putin and the Rus­sian plu­toc­racy that th­ese kinds of abuses of hu­man rights will not be tol­er­ated.”

The 92-4 vote Thurs­day by the Se­nate to es­tab­lish per­ma­nent nor­mal trade re­la­tions with Rus­sia fol­lowed an equally con­vinc­ing vote in the House last month. Demo­cratic Sens. Shel­don White­house and Jack Reed of Ver­mont and Carl Levin of Michi­gan, along with Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders of the Libery Union Party, cast the nay votes. The bill elim­i­nates a long-ob­so­lete 1974 pro­vi­sion, called the Jack­son-Vanik Amend­ment, that tied trade re­la­tions with the former Soviet Union to the em­i­gra­tion of Jews and other Soviet mi­nori­ties.

But act­ing to elim­i­nate the 1974 pro­vi­sion and mak­ing nor­mal re­la­tions per­ma­nent be­came a ne­ces­sity when Rus­sia en­tered the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion on Aug. 22.

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