Posts Tagged 'President Putin'

The Missing Human Rights Dialogue Between Trump and Putin

MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images

Under fire for his relationship with Vladimir Putin, President Trump nonetheless will meet with the Russian despot on July 16 in Helsinki, and he has said that it is likely to be the “easiest” part of a trip that already has included a contentious NATO meeting and a stop in London.  To date President Trump has paid little attention to human rights and democratic values in his foreign policy pronouncements, or in his embrace of authoritarian leaders from Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un to President Duterte.  Americans nonetheless are right to expect that President Trump show leadership by reestablishing attention to human rights to its traditional and right place as a central concern in our bilateral relationship with Russia when he sits down with Putin.

We’ll leave to others the flurry of questions about Russia’s interference in U.S. elections (past and future), the impact of that interference on Trump’s 2016 presidential win, and geopolitical questions raised by its engagement in Syria and elsewhere.  All, of course, have a critical place in this dialogue.

Rather, our immediate concern is that, since becoming President, Trump has turned his back on insisting that Moscow respect its citizens’ human rights – and on making clear that failure to do so will negatively impact our bilateral relations.  That post-war insistence is part of America’s true greatness.  It also reflects a real-world awareness that longer-term U.S. interests are most secure when partner countries respect democratic practice, the rule of law, and vibrant civil societies.

Today’s Russia has hit bottom in each of the above areas.  As documented in the State Department’s most recent human rights report, freedoms of media, expression, assembly, association, and privacy are under sharp attack in Russia.  Judicial independence does not exist, while extrajudicial violence and killings, including against LGBT citizens, does.  And so-called “foreign agent” laws have imposed sharp limits on the operation of legitimate civil society organizations.

Russia’s highly centralized government structure makes clear one thing:  Russian President Putin has the power to make needed changes to this troubling situation.

We’re eager to see whether Trump addresses these issues, in public and in private – eager, too, for him to hold Putin accountable for reversing the tragedies impacting Chechnya’s LGBT population.  Last year, the world was appropriately shocked when Chechen authorities detained and tortured scores of gay and bisexual men – or those suspected of being gay.  Some were murdered; more than 100 others were forced to leave their homes, seeking protection abroad.  The official homophobic purge continues to encourage families to “take care of” their LGBT family members, particularly impacting lesbians and bisexual women as well as gay and bisexual men. Russian authorities have done nothing to reverse this troubled situation, nor have they taken steps to assure justice for those impacted so gravely.

In all of this, the Administration has shown only passing concern over Russia’s failings.  To be sure, UN Ambassador Haley and then-Secretary of State Tillerson issued perfunctory statements of concern, and Tillerson reportedly sent a follow-up letter to his Russian counterpart, after having neglected to raise the matter in face-to-face meetings.  (We’ve not obtained a copy of the letter, nor have we been told whether Lavrov bothered to respond.)  In December the White House did impose Magnitsky Act visa and asset sanctions on two Chechen officials deemed responsible for Chechen’s actions, actions that we applauded at the time.  However, even these welcome actions fail to make clear that Moscow – not Grozny – ultimately is responsible for righting the situation.

Bipartisan Congressional resolutions (see the Senate Resolution here, and the House Resolution here) and several Congressional letters have insisted that the Trump Administration show greater resolve in pressing this issue. The most recent of these – earlier this spring, on the one-year anniversary that these atrocities began (see the Senate letter here, and the House letter here) – make clear that any genuine improvement in bilateral relations requires that Putin and Trump deal directly with Chechnya’s tragedy.

We recognize that the human rights issues noted above are but part of a broad pattern of slippage in Russia’s adherence to democratic and international norms.  We appeal to the Administration to acknowledge those facts, and we call for the Trump-Putin meeting to address them squarely and fully, hopefully with better results than seen thus far.

President Rejects Calls to Boycott Olympics Over Anti-Gay Law

President Barack ObamaRepost from The Hill

President Obama on Friday rejected calls for the United States to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

“I know that one question that’s been raised is, how do we approach the Olympics? I want to just make very clear right now I do not think it’s appropriate to boycott the Olympics. We’ve got a bunch of Americans out there who are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed,” Obama said.

Some have said the U.S. should skip the Games in Sochi, Russia, over the country’s harboring of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Others have pushed the boycott to protest Russia’s treatment of gays and lesbians.

A law passed by Russia in June would ban “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” It would also levy fines on people staging gay pride rallies.

Obama spoke out against the law earlier this week and reiterated that criticism on Friday.

“Nobody’s more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you’ve been seeing in Russia,” Obama said. “But as I said just this week, I’ve spoken out against that, not just with respect to Russia, but a number of other countries where we continue to do work with them, but we have a strong disagreement on this issue.”

Obama said gay athletes from the United States could change attitudes in Russia by excelling at the Games.

“And one of the things I’m really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we’re seeing there,” he said.

Obama also said the Russian Olympic team would be weaker if gays and lesbians were not allowed to represent the country.

The International Olympic Committee said Friday it needs more clarification on the Russian law before it moves ahead with preparations for the games, according to The Associated Press. Watch a video of President Obama’s Speech

The Facts on LGBT Rights in Russia

The Facts on LGBT Rights in RussiaIn recent weeks, public attention to the ongoing crackdown on LGBT rights in the Russian Federation and its potential impact on the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in February 2014 has increased significantly. President Obama addressed the issue on the Tonight Show, saying:

“I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work, and I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently. They’re athletes, they’re there to compete. And if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam, and people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.” 
– President Obama

The controversy is likely to escalate as President Obama heads to St. Petersburg, Russia in early September for a G-20 Summit and potential bilateral meetings with President Putin. This fact sheet summarizes the developments in Russia and the guidance that we have received to date from our colleagues in Russia. Read the Fact Sheet Here.


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