From William J. Dobson, stating unequivocally that Putin’s decision is mean.
Few modern authoritarians are more image-conscious than Vladimir Putin. For 12 years, we have been treated to the macho displays of the Russian leader as action hero/adventurer: the judo black belt; the shirtless outdoorsman; the deep-sea diver; the motorcycle enthusiast; and most recently, the (slightly softer) supposed savior to a flock of endangered cranes. Less well-known is how carefully scripted Putin’s appearance on Russian television can be, with regime spin doctors dictating media coverage down to the minute. The Kremlin is probably a more poll-driven institution than anything you’ll find in Washington, D.C.
That’s why the Russian president’s decision on Friday to sign a piece of legislation forbidding the adoption of Russian children by American citizens appears at first blush to be so oddly tone deaf. The Russian bill will immediately block the adoption of 46 Russian orphans whose applications were nearly complete. It is in retaliation for a U.S. law that targeted corrupt Russian officials who had a connection to the imprisonment and death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer and whistle-blower who had uncovered a massive tax fraud implicating senior Russian officials and police officers. So, with the stroke of a pen, Putin appeared to be rushing to defend venal and most likely criminal Russian officials at the expense of dozens of orphans, not to mention the thousands of other Russian children who would eventually be taken in by American families. The ghastly conditions in Russia’s overburdened orphanages are no secret to Russians. (There are an estimated 120,000 children eligible for adoption. Last year, Americans adopted 1,000 of the roughly 10,000 children who found homes.) No one has ever accused Putin of being a warm, father-like figure. Now he just seems mean.
The idea that Putin ending adoptions to American parents is a significant blow to U.S.-Russian relations is ridiculous. It is a heartbreaking and cruel decision for those children and the families that were only weeks away from welcoming them, but the reality is that this political tit-for-tat won’t spill over to strategic considerations regarding Iran, Syria, and maintaining supply lines in Afghanistan. What it does tell you is how puny Vladimir Putin has become.
But what disturbs is that the Russian Orthodox Church, in this report from Miriam Elder, is supporting this decision by Putin:
The Russian Orthodox church has been attacked for supporting a new law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, at the end of a year that saw it plagued by scandal and accusations of collusion with an increasingly authoritarian Kremlin.
Father Vsevolod Chaplin, a high-ranking priest and a spokesman for the church, said the law was “a search for a social answer to an elementary question: why should we give, and even sell, our children abroad?”
Speaking to Interfax, a state news agency, last week, Chaplin said the path to heaven would be closed to children adopted by foreigners. “They won’t get a truly Christian upbringing and that means falling away from the church and from the path to eternal life, in God’s kingdom,” he said.