McCain pokes White House over Russia's rejection of USAID

“There should be no confusion as to why this decision was made: an increasingly autocratic government in Russia wants to limit the ability of its own citizens to freely and willingly work with American partners on the promotion of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Russia,” said McCain, a lead critic of Russia who championed Georgia in its ill-fated 2008 war with its giant neighbor. “If the defense of these values holds any place in the administration’s approach to Russia, this shameful action by the Russian government should prompt strong criticism from the highest levels at the White House and the State Department.”

McCain also made the case for immediate passage of human-rights legislation named after deceased Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky that would impose travel and financial restrictions on Russian officials accused of human-rights abuses. The bill, along with legislation to normalize trade relations with Russia, are stuck in Congress, where Republicans blame a lack of engagement by the White House for the lack of progress.

“The administration should also make clear that, despite this embarrassing setback, the U.S. will never abandon those patriotic Russians who dream of a better and freer future for their country, and that we will seek new ways to maintain our support and assistance to them. Most of all, it is now essential for the U.S. Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act as quickly as possible.”