The Cable

More senators oppose lifting trade sanctions on Russia

Four more senators joined the opposition to repealing the Jackson-Vanik trade sanctions law against Russia on Friday, unless that repeal is accompanied by a new law specifically targeting human rights violators inside the Russian government.

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) wrote a letter Friday to Senate Finance Committee heads Max Baucus (D-MT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to let them know that they oppose Baucus's effort to repeal the 1974 Jackson-Vanik law unless it is replaced with the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011 -- legislation meant to promote human rights in Russia that is named for the anti-corruption lawyer who died in a Russian prison, after allegedly being tortured, two years ago.

Without repeal of the Jackson-Vanik law, U.S. businesses can't take full advantage of Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization, but the senators believe that the Magnitsky bill is needed to ensure the Russian government is not let off the hook for their deteriorating record on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

"In the absence of the passage of the Magnitsky legislation, we will strongly oppose the lifting of Jackson-Vanik," the senators wrote. "Human rights abuses in Russia are widespread and severe, and a legitimate area of focus for U.S. foreign policy. For this reason, what is urgently needed is not merely the elimination of Jackson-Vanik, but its replacement with legislation that is appropriately tailored to the contemporary human rights problems facing the people of Russia. That is precisely the role that the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act would service."

The opposition to a straight repeal of Jackson-Vanik now includes these four senators, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), large portions of the Washington human rights community, and leading Russian opposition figures such as Solidarity movement leader Boris Nemtsov. Those who support repealing Jackson-Vanik without any replacement human-rights legislation include the Obama administration, large sections of the business community, and the Russian government.

Moscow has already praised and promoted the officials accused of torturing Magnitsky for their investigation into the case, and has now begun retrying Magnitsky for criminal tax violations -- even though he is dead.

"While some in the Russian government may be upset if the United States adopts the Magnitsky bill, we believe most Russians will be happy to see us deny the most abusive and corrupt individuals in their country the ability to travel and move their ill-gotten gains overseas," the senators wrote.

UPDATE: A Baucus spokesperson sent in the following statemet regarding Baucus's position on human rights in Russia as it relates to the repeal of Jackson-Vanik:

Chairman Baucus certainly shares the concerns about the human rights situation and he is working with his colleagues to find the best ways to address them. He has met with democracy and human rights activists in Russia and heard directly from them that one way to help improve both democracy and human rights is to repeal Jackson-Vanik and pass PNTR to remove an anti-America propaganda tool and open Russia to transparency. And he has expressed willingness to consider other legislation as well.


The Cable

Names: Chollet to replace Vershbow at Pentagon

President Barack Obama announced his intention late on Friday to appoint Derek Chollet to be assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, replacing Sandy Vershbow, who has already assumed his new role as deputy secretary general of NATO.

Chollet is currently the senior director for strategic planning at the National Security Council (NSC) and until last year served as the number two official at the State Department's Policy Planning Office under Anne-Marie Slaughter. Before Obama took office, Chollet was working at the Center for a New American Security, the think tank started by former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs Kurt Campbell.

His move is only the latest in a string of appointments of NSC officials to Pentagon posts following the departure of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in what many in Washington see as a White House effort to reassume control over the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Former NSC Chief of Staff Mark Lippert has been nominated to be assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, although his nomination is stalled in the Senate. Former NSC Director Matt Spence has taken over as deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, a position that doesn't require Senate confirmation.

Chollet's new position, if confirmed, would give him purview over defense policy covering a huge number of countries and regions. The policy shop in the Pentagon is divided among five assistant secretaries, but only Asia and the Western Hemisphere fall under specific assistant secretaries, leaving policy regarding almost the entire rest of the world under Chollet's domain.

The president also announced his intention to nominate Kathleen Hicks to be principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, replacing Jim Miller, who has been nominated to replace Flournoy as undersecretary of defense for policy. Hicks' current position is deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans, and forces. Since all nominations seem to be held up in the Senate, both Miller and Hicks could have the "acting" qualifier on their titles for a while. Hicks also previously worked with Flournoy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.