Commentary Magazine


The Tragic Cruelty of Vladimir Putin

It is hard to overstate the cynicism and cruelty of Vladimir Putin. He is willing to use orphans as his pawns in his public-relations battle against the West. That’s no exaggeration, given that he has just signed a law forbidding Americans to adopt Russian children. Approximately 650,000 of them live in orphanages and foster care including a substantial number who are sick or disabled and are unlikely to ever find a permanent home. Russian orphanages have a reputation for terrible conditions and rampant abuse. They are some of the grimmest places to live in the industrialized world.

If the new law had not been passed, a few of the kids stuck there would undoubtedly have benefitted from being adopted by well-meaning Americans such as Heather and Aaron Whaley of Frederick, Maryland, who say they are devout Christians eager to adopt a 4-year-old Russian girl with developmental issues. But now that is not to be.

And why not? Because Putin signed the adoption-ban as a way to retaliate for the Sergei L. Magnitsky Act passed by Congress, which prevents Russians accused of human rights abuses from visiting the U.S. or owning property here. (Magnitsky was a crusading Russian lawyer who tried to expose official malfeasance and was thrown into prison, where he died after being denied medical care.) In other words Putin is compounding one human rights violation (against Magnitsky) with another–against orphans eager for a better future.

This gesture is so heartless and calculated that only someone like Putin–”Tsar”Vladimir–would be capable of it. The pity is that he has such complete control of Russian politics that there is little that his opponents can do to block his whims, no matter how inhumane.