In the book Red Notice by Bill Browder he tells how his lawyer and friend from Moscow, Sergei Magnitsky, who he called the most courageous man he ever knew was arrested by Putin’s henchmen and put into prison without charges. He was taken from his home in front of his son and wife and he would never get to see them again. He was moved from prison to prison with his treatment becoming ever harsher. He was told that he could gain his freedom and go back to his family if he would only tell the authorities what they wanted to hear which were a bunch of lies. He refused. He wanted to expose the corrupt system. Putin’s thugs eventually beat him to death at a hospital and said he died of heart failure.
As an aside I think of the story of Magnitsky an ordinarily law-abiding bloke who was a lawyer in his mid-thirties bearing up under the ongoing and ever-increasing harsh treatment by the Russian gangster officials. I compare him those supposed tough guys, Steve Flemmi, John Martorano, Kevin Weeks, Frank Salemme, and others who provided prosecutors lie after lie to escape from benign prison conditions. Weeks the worst of the bunch was incarcerated two weeks before spilling his guts out to get free. All our cowards belonged in prison since they led lives of crime but they couldn’t take it; Magnitsky who committed no crime could take all they dished out and still held on to his honor.
After his death, Browder helped out Magnitsky family but also felt an intense need to bring something good from it. He with the help of Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Jim McGovern and others brought about the passage of the Magnitsky Act which listed those persons involved in his torture and murder and barred them from entering the United States.
It wasn’t easy. Senator Cardin a Democrat from Maryland needed a Republican to support the bill. Senator John McCain and Joe Lieberman quickly joined in. All that was needed now was to get it through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and onto the Senate floor for a vote.
There the process came to a halt. John Kerry was chairman of that Committee. Cardin requested the bill be added to the agenda in September 2011, Kerry refused. Again in October 2011, Kerry refused. In late November 2011 it was again kept off the agenda.
Searching to find out why, Browder met with Kerry’s advisor on Russian affairs Jason Bruder (now senior adviser to Kerry). He said the Magnitsky Act was the wrong approach. He said Kerry would bring the matter up with the Russian ambassador the next time they met.
Browder would write: “It turned out Kerry’s opposition to the Magnitsky Act had nothing to do with whether he thought it was good or bad policy. The rumor in Washington was that John Kerry was blocking the bill for one simple reason: he wanted to be secretary of state after Hillary Clinton resigned. According to the story making the rounds, one of the conditions for his getting the job was to make sure that the Magnitsky Act never saw the light of day . . . ” (quotes from Red Notice p.333).
This came about because in 2009 when Obama took office “the main policy of the US Government toward Russia had been one of appeasement.” It was called “reset.” In “practical terms it meant that the United States wouldn’t mention certain unpleasant subjects concerning Russia . . . .” (quotes from Red Notice p.293).
The act finally passed when it was tied to something that the Administration and Russia wanted that was more important. But we saw that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry were so afraid of upsetting Putin that they did all in their power to prevent the United States from barring a group of Russian thugs and murderers from coming to America. No wonder then Putin felt free to grab Crimea.
After the Magnitsky Act passed, Putin retaliated by barring Americans from adopting Russian babies. Sergei Lavrov who Browder said “carried out some of Putin’s most odious policies around the world” would end up negotiating with Kerry over Syria, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine taking his wallet from him on each occasion.
Kerry is now in the process of negotiating the Iranian nuclear arms pact with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif. Is it any wonder Netanyahu threw out the window all diplomatic niceties to speak to the US Congress? Netanyahu knows Kerry will do anything to make himself look good. He knows that Secretary of State Kerry has nothing to show for his endless peregrinations after two years. He’s looking for a feather to put in his cap. Netanyahu worries that to do that he will sell Israel down the drain just like he was willing to do to Sergei Magnitsky.