Russia's Adoption Ban Really About US Bogeyman, Expert Says

The Russian government's recent decision to ban the adoption of Russian orphans to the United States is part of a long trend in which Russian politicians blame the United States for their country's problems, according to Dr. Heather Tafel, associate professor of political science at Grand Valley State University, in Allendale, Mich., and an expert on Russian politics.

"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," Tafel said in a Monday interview with The Christian Post.

The ban on all inter-country adoptions to the United States was signed into law last week by Putin. The ban was passed as a backlash against the United States' Magnitsky Act. The Magnitsky Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in December, places travel restrictions on Russians suspected of human rights violations.

Putin often argues that the United States is in no position to lecture Russia about human rights and elections, Tafel recalled. These attitudes don't come from only Putin, though.

Some "more nationalistically minded politicians" have also expressed concerns about Russian children being adopted by Americans. Russian orphans adopted by an American lose their nationality, culture and Russian "soul," these politicians claim, according to Tafel. She recalls watching shows on Russian television in the late 1990s and 2000, before Putin was president, in which these claims were promoted.

These beliefs "have their roots in the many indignations of the 1990s," Tafel explained, such as the collapse of the Soviet empire and the nation's associated decline as a military and economic superpower.

In recent years there have been several cases of bad behavior by Americans who adopted Russian orphans. These incidents received much attention in Russian media. In 2010, a Tennessee woman sent her 7-year-old adopted son back to Russia unaccompanied on an airplane. Plus, there have been several incidents of abusive parents. Supporters of the ban claimed that 19 Russian children adopted by American parents have died since the 1990s.

There have been other recent actions by the Russian government that also blame foreigners for Russia's problems. Last September, USAid, a U.S. agency aimed at helping foreign countries with economic and political development, was ordered to cease operations in Russia. And last month, advocacy organizations were ordered to register as "foreign agents" if they received funding from outside of Russia, a move aimed at intimidating pro-democracy groups.

Tafel believes the adoption ban is also "a way to deflect people's attention away from problems at home," such as "corruption, poor state services, political crackdowns, and the United States is often an easy target."

While the ban has been popular among Putin's core supporters, Tafel is not sure if the "bogeyman narrative" will continue to work as it has in the past. She notes that there is actually broad support for the Magnitsky Act among Russians. Additionally, there is a protest against the adoption ban scheduled for Jan. 13 in Moscow.

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