Passage of the legislation is a benchmark in the deterioration of Russian-American relations, and unlike some of the earlier, symbolic moves, it has real consequences. Over the past 20 years, 60,000 Russians have been adopted by Americans, and officials said the measure would block the pending adoptions of 46 children.
Kim Summers of Freehold, N.J., was just weeks away from bringing home her adopted son, Preston, when the legislation hit. She and her husband adopted him on Dec. 12 and returned to the United States three days later to complete a required 30-day waiting period.
“As far as we knew until this morning, he was coming home with us,” Summers said. “What’s going on has absolutely nothing to do with parenting a child. My son was looked at by 22 Russian families before I had the chance to even fathom adopting him, and none of them wanted him.”
Senior members of the Russian cabinet had warned against the bill, saying that it punishes orphans more than it does American politicians and that it looks like a defense of corruption while unavoidably drawing attention to the sorry state of Russian orphanages.
But Putin disregarded the warnings, seemingly pulled along by the enthusiasm for the legislation in both houses of parliament.
Washington reacted sharply to the new law Friday. The State Department issued a statement saying it deeply regrets “the Russian government’s politically motivated decision.” It also expressed hope that adoptive parents and children “who have already met and bonded” would be allowed to complete adoption procedures that were initiated before the law took effect.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Putin’s action “shameful and appalling” and said the law’s effects on thousands of Russian children would be “cruel and malicious.” He said in a statement: “I often wonder how much lower the Russian government under President Putin can stoop. But to punish innocent babies and children over a political disagreement between our governments is a new low, even for Putin’s Russia.”
The issues at the heart of the U.S.-Russian relationship in the coming year are critical to the United States, primarily the continuing transit of goods into and out of Afghanistan, and Russian cooperation on Iran. So far, both topics have been kept mostly out of the fray.
For several weeks, Putin appeared to be putting the brakes on the adoption ban. He raised questions about it at his annual news conference this month, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Science and Education Minister Dmitry Livanov, among others, called it ill-advised. But on Thursday, Putin said, “I have not seen any reason why I should not sign it.”