Starting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the Russian political establishment and the government-controlled media engaged in a flurry of huffing and puffing after the U.S. Senate passed the Sergei Magnitsky Bill - named after a Russian lawyer who died under mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison after having exposed corruption.
The law will prevent those responsible for his death from visiting the United States and if they have assets that they smuggled out of Russia stashed away in the United States, they are subject to seizure.
Lavrov opines that the bill passed as part of an "internal political struggle" designed to undermine Barack Obama's sole achievement in foreign affairs. The Russian Foreign Minister called upon the Russian Duma to provide a united multi-party response.
Aleksei Pushkov, Chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs committee and a member of the presidential party United Russia, remarked that Russia has already prepared a blacklist of American citizens against whom Russia would retaliate for human rights violations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There is a great deal of posturing, but it is doubtful that there is a great deal of substance behind it. First of all, at the insistence of the Obama administration, the Senate refrained from making the bill a blanket threat to Russian human rights violators and limited it to 60 people directly involved in the specific case.
Interestingly, Russia's most respected polling organization – the Levada Center - came up with the surprising discovery that among Russians who held an opinion on the bill, there was a 2 to 1 margin in favor and only 3% were really upset. 39% of the Russian respondents fully or mostly agree with the bill and this number jumps to 46% when the responses are limited to the major cities.
Despite this the displays of resentment continued. Irina Yarovaya, the head of the State Duma Committee on Security and Corruption Prevention called the law "lynch law" and something "unacceptable in civilized society". One television presenter claimed that the West, even in czarist times, had looked down upon the Russians and said that the Americans have a tendency of lecturing everybody. The presenter took comfort in the knowledge that Russia was not the only country that suffered from American conceit.
It is funny, you know. Now, as you were talking, I suddenly remembered that the US exercised similar approach towards people like Muammar Qaddafi.
When her interviewee reminded her that there were good periods as well, such as the World War II alliance, the presenter displayed her historical knowledge remarking that the United States "entered the war back in 1943 or 1944."