Russian politicians are holding the nation's orphans hostage, to pressure the United States into easing sanctions on human rights abusers. This may not be the worst thing ever done in the realm of international relations, but it certainly merits global scorn and staunch opposition.
A new law passed by Russia's parliament bans American adoption of Russian children. The legislation is retaliation for a new U.S. law imposing travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia. The adoption ban may not directly affect Russian politicians, but it will have devastating consequences for thousands of desperately needy Russian children and countless U.S. families seeking to give them a home.
According to the U.S. Department of State, 962 Russian children were adopted by U.S. parents in 2011 out of 9,319 total inter-country adoptions. Only Ethiopia and China ranked higher. Nearly 83 percent of those Russian adoptees were younger than 5; nearly 67 percent were 2 years old or younger.
In 2011, there were 92 inter-country adoptions in Oklahoma; from 1999 to 2011, Oklahomans adopted 1,651 children from other countries. It's not easy to learn how many were Russian orphans, but it's certain the ban will be felt locally. ABC News recently interviewed Oklahoma natives Patrick and Jan Griffin, a couple already several months into the adoption process when the Russian legislation advanced.
More than 70,000 Russian children have been adopted by Americans during the past 20 years. Currently, 120,000 Russian orphans are awaiting adoption, and only 18,470 Russian families signed up as potential adoptive parents.
As they say, geopolitics ain't beanbag. Still, for a country's leaders to prioritize human-rights abusers over the welfare of local children demonstrates an abysmal lack of compassion and starkly illustrates why international adoption is a far better fate for many Russian children than life in their homeland.