Russia, United States Fighting a 'War of Lists'

Sara Morrison
Russia, United States Fighting a 'War of Lists'

Russia and the United States are in the middle of a sanction-off.

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First, Russia banned Americans from adopting its children last year.

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Then, on Friday, the United States put 18 Russians on its "Magnitsky List" of officials accused of human rights abuses (there's an additional "handful of names" on a classified list as well). People on the list will not be able to travel to the U.S. and any assets they may have in this country will be frozen.

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The next day, Russia responded unoriginally with a list of its own. It also had 18 people accused of human rights abuses, but this time, they were American. Those people will not be able to travel to Russia and any assets they have in that country will also be frozen. So there.

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From the New York Times:

“Our principled opinion on this unfriendly step is well known: under the pressure of Russophobically inclined U.S. congressmen, a severe blow has been dealt to bilateral relations and mutual confidence,” said the spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich.

He added, “The war of lists is not our choice, but we had no right to leave this open blackmail unanswered.”

What does this mean? It's unlikely that the lists themselves will cause bloodshed (unless someone got a paper cut while handling them), as Reuters writes that "both governments showed restraint, keeping high-level current officials off their lists in an apparent effort to contain the political damage." More likely, it's just posturing and a sign that relations between the countries are becoming increasingly tense. 

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It'll be interesting to see what happens when National Security Advisor Tom Donilon visits Moscow on Monday to discuss missile defense systems. This could put a damper on those talks. 

At least one of the sanctionees isn't too bothered. According to the New York Times, this was John Yoo's response: 

“Darn,” Mr. Yoo said in an e-mail. “There goes my judo match with Putin.”