The Eric Snowden affair has unwittingly impacted around 300 Russian orphans who still hope to be united with American parents. President Barack Obama's decision this week to cancel a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin due to Russia's granting of asyslum to Snowden has further harmed attempts to complete adoption of the Russian orphans who were in the process of being adopted when the adoption ban was put in place.
The Russian ban on Americans adopting Russian children was never about the well-being of orphans. Rather, it was done as a political retaliation for passage of the Magnitsky Act. The Act, signed into law by Obama in December, places travel restrictions on Russians suspected of human rights violations. It is named after Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered corruption in the Russian government and died in a Russian prison. Some reports says he was beaten to death.
"Russia used the adoption ban to give America a diplomatic poke in the eye, at the expense of children who need families," Jedd Medefind, president of Christian Alliance for Orphans, explained to The Christian Post.
In a January interview with The Christian Post, Dr. Heather Tafel, associate professor of political science at Grand Valley State University, in Allendale, Mich., and an expert on Russian politics, said the ban was part of a pattern among Russian politicians in which they would cast the United States as a bogeyman for Russians to fear.
"Particularly since [Russian President Vladimir] Putin came back to power, the United States has again become the bogeyman that Russian politicians like to blame for Russia's woes," she said.
Even before Snowden landed in Russia and got stuck in a Russian airport after the United States revoked his passport, a total reversal of the adoption ban appeared unlikely, added Medefind, who previously led the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the George W. Bush administration.
Before Obama cancelled his meeting with Obama, many members of Congress, from both political parties, were urging Obama to raise the issue of the adoption ban during the meeting.
On May 31, 154 of them, led by Sen. Mary Landrieu, signed onto a letter asking Obama to find "a solution for the small number of Russian orphans who have already met and bonded with their American families, yet were not able to have their adoptions completed due to the Russian adoption ban."
Now that the meeting has been cancelled altogether, though, opportunities for a diplomatic solution have further diminished, Medefind believes.
"Because the adoption ban was primarily a political matter," he said, "any hope of solution lay mainly with improved political relations between the U.S. and Russia. The Snowden Affair has made a bad diplomatic relationship worse, putting hope of solution even further out of reach."