Ever since Russia voted to ban the adoption of babies to parents in the United States, the entire subjected has become a foreign relations quagmire. Relations between our two nations have continued to sour, and this has become something of a political hot potato. But not everyone is backing up Vladimir Putin on this strange strategy. This week an unexpected number of his citizens took to the streets in a show of no confidence.
MOSCOW (AP) — Thousands marched through Moscow on Sunday to protest Russia’s new law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, a far bigger number than expected in a sign that outrage over the ban has breathed some life into the dispirited anti-Kremlin opposition movement.
Shouting “shame on the scum,” protesters carried posters of President Vladimir Putin and members of Russia’s parliament who overwhelmingly voted for the law last month. Up to 20,000 took part in the demonstration on a frigid, gray afternoon.
This may turn out to backfire on Putin entirely. There was already a groundswell of opposition to his seizing a third term in power, (which never really ended) but apparently the opposition was losing focus and weakening. This move may be the spark that gets some of them organized and back out in the streets on a regular basis. But there’s another aspect to the PR campaign against America going on in relation to this issue which I hadn’t been aware of.
Russia’s adoption ban was retaliation for a new U.S. law targeting Russians accused of human rights abuses. It also addresses long-brewing resentment in Russia over the 60,000 Russian children who have been adopted by Americans in the past two decades, 19 of whom have died.
Cases of Russian children dying or suffering abuse at the hands of their American adoptive parents have been widely publicized in Russia, and the law banning adoptions was called the Dima Yakovlev Bill after a toddler who died in 2008 when he was left in a car for hours in broiling heat.
On the surface those numbers really don’t sound all that shocking. 19 deaths in 20 years out of a pool of more than 60,000 is probably a better mortality rate than you’d find among Russian children in some parts of their country. But the fact that at least some of them came as a result of the incredible stupidity of incompetent parents certainly doesn’t help. And it probably won’t soothe anyone’s concerns to note that we have more than enough stupid parents who do equally reprehensible things involving their own American born children. But it’s not hard to see what a powerful tool such statistics, figures and stories could be in the court of Russian public opinion.
Either way, the entire thing is a mess. It’s difficult to see how any sort of social uprising is going to wind up toppling Putin from power, but he’s obviously got some public perception problems over there, even if a revolution isn’t in the offing.