Russian opposition and human rights activists have urged U.S. lawmakers to repeal a Cold War-era law aimed at punishing the Communist Soviet Union, arguing that keeping it benefits President-elect Vladimir Putin.
In a letter today addressed to Congressional leaders, campaigners including Lyudmilla Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said the failure to abolish the measure would be a “gift” for conservative forces that want to intensify pressure on the opposition and confrontation with the U.S., according to an e-mail from the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance.
Yesterday, opposition leaders including anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Ryzhkov in an open letter also urged the U.S. to repeal the amendment.
The U.S. risks losing out on increased exports to Russia once the country formally joins the World Trade Organization in May or June, because of the 1974 law, which barred favorable trade relations with the Soviet Union because it wouldn’t let Jewish citizens emigrate.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month urged Congress to overturn the law, claiming American farmers and producers are being hurt by the statute. Annual waivers have been allowed since 1993, two years after the Communist government collapsed.
Lawmakers including Representatives Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Democrat, have questioned repealing the law and easing trade with Russia, citing its record on human rights and economic policies.
Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said Feb. 28 that Russia’s attitude toward Syria would “definitely” slow debate on overturning Jackson-Vanik.
“At the end of the day, those who defend the argument that Jackson-Vanik’s provisions should still apply to Russia in order to punish Putin’s anti-democratic regime only darken Russia’s political future, hamper its economic development and frustrate its democratic aspirations,” the opposition activists said in yesterday’s open letter.
Tens of thousands of Russians have protested in major cities since December at alleged fraud that handed the ruling party a reduced majority and gave Putin a new six-year term in the Kremlin after 12 years in power, including the last four years as premier.
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