U.S. has ‘deep concerns’ over ban
orphaned children, children left without parental care, and especially children who are in a disadvantageous situation due to their health problems.”
Putin brushed aside criticism that the law would deny some Russian orphans the chance for a much better life in the United States. In 2011, about 1,000 Russian children were adopted to America, more than to any other foreign country, but still a tiny number given that nearly 120,000 children in Russia are eligible for adoption.
“There are probably many places in the world where living standards are better than ours,” Putin said. “So what? Shall we send all children there, or move there ourselves?”
U.S. officials have strongly criticized the measure and urged the Russian government not to enmesh orphaned children in politics.
“We have repeatedly made clear, both in private and in public, our deep concerns about the bill passed by the Russian Parliament,” said a State Department spokesman, Patrick Ventrell. “Since 1992 American families have welcomed more than 60,000 Russian children into their homes, and it is misguided to link the fate of children to unrelated political considerations.”
Internally, however, Obama administration officials have been engaged in a debate over how strongly to respond to the adoption ban, and how to assess the potential implications for other aspects of the country’s relationship with Russia.
The United States, for instance, now relies heavily on overland routes through Russia to ship supplies to military units in Afghanistan, and has enlisted Russia’s help in containing Iran’s nuclear program. The former Cold War rivals also have sharp disagreements, notably over the civil war in Syria.
And with the White House and Congress heavily focused on the fiscal debate in Washington, there seems to be little room for developing a more forceful response on the adoption issue.
The news led to shock and despair among the hundreds of American families waiting to adopt a Russian child.
“I’m a little numb,” said Maria Drewinsky, a mas- sage therapist from Sea Cliff, N.Y., who was in the final stages of adopting Alyosha, 5. She has flown twice to visit him and speaks to him weekly on the telephone.
“We have clothes and a bedroom all set up for him, and we talk about him all the time as our son,” Drewinsky said.
The bill that includes the adoption ban was drafted in response to the Magnitsky Act, a law signed by President Barack Obama earlier this month that will bar Russian citizens accused of violating human rights from traveling to the United States and from owning American real estate or other assets.
The Obama administration had opposed the legislation, fearing diplomatic retaliation, but members of Congress were eager to press Russia over human rights abuses and tied the bill to legislation that granted Russia new status as a full trading partner — a measure that was required by Russia’s entrance into the World Trade Organization earlier this year.
Putin delayed announcing whether he would sign the adoption ban even as the lower house of Parliament, the State Duma, approved it by a large margin, followed by the Federation Council, which backed it unanimously. Like Obama, he can now say he is simply signing a bill with overwhelming sup- port from the legislative branch — though Putin holds far more sway over Russian lawmakers than Obama does over Congress.
The adoption ban set off impassioned ideological debate here in Russia. Critics said the ban would most hurt orphans already suffering in Russia’s deeply troubled child welfare system. Supporters said Russians should care for their own and pointed at sporadic abuse cases involving adopted Russian children in the United States.
The response has been equally emotional in the United States, where three Russian adoptees, including Tatyana McFadden, 23, a medalwinning Paralympics athlete who uses a wheelchair, delivered a petition against the ban to the Russian Embassy in Washington.
Meanwhile, supporters of the ban in the United States said there were more than enough American children in need of adoption.
“The closure of U.S. adoptions from Russia would be tragic and not in the best interest of the many thousands of children living in orphanages or other institutions,” said Leslie Case, a spokeswoman for SpenceChapin Adoption Services in New York. “Having children spend more time in institutions is detrimental to their development.”
The ban is set to take effect on Tuesday, and some senior officials in Moscow said they expected it to have the immediate effect of blocking the departure of 46 children whose adoptions by American parents were nearly completed.
Adoption agency officials in the United States who work regularly with Russian orphanages said they expected the number of families immediately affected by the ban to be far larger, about 200 to 250 who have already identified a child whom they plan to adopt.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) speaks at a State Council meeting in Moscow as Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev looks on Thursday. Putin announced that he will sign a controversial bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children.