Vladimir Putin keeps putting William Browder on Interpol’s wanted list, or trying to. As far as I’m concerned, these attempts are the equivalent of medals of freedom.
Remember who Browder is: He is the financier whose lawyer was Sergei Magnitsky, who became a prisoner of the Russian state and was tortured to death — real slow. Thereafter, Browder dedicated himself to the cause of justice in Russia.
“My grandfather was the biggest Communist in America, and I was the biggest capitalist in Russia,” he likes to say. His grandfather was indeed Earl Browder, the head of the CPUSA. His father was Felix Browder, a math genius.
In 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, which targets Russian human-rights abusers: It freezes their assets and deprives them of visas. Boris Nemtsov called the Magnitsky Act “the most pro-Russian law ever enacted by a foreign government.” (Nemtsov was the leader of the opposition to Putin in Russia. In 2015, he was murdered within sight of the Kremlin.)
The Magnitsky Act drives Putin nuts. It means that his men can’t act as they always have, i.e., with impunity. Now there are consequences, which is a problem for Putin. Four countries have Magnitsky acts: the U.S., Britain, Estonia, and now Canada. (They passed theirs last week.)
Browder is a driver behind these Magnitsky acts, and Putin hates him for it, understandably. Twice in 2013, he tried to add Browder to Interpol’s wanted list, and twice he failed, because Interpol knew that Putin was politically motivated. Browder is not a criminal. He is an anti-criminal, which is why Putin targets him.
In 2014, Putin tried again — no dice. Last summer, Browder testified against him before the Judiciary Committee in the U.S. Senate, to damning effect. Obviously ticked, Putin tried again. This time, Interpol had Browder’s name on the list for a month, before deleting it.
In the wake of Canada’s new Magnitsky act, Putin has tried again. Tried for a fifth time. Interpol has accepted his request. Worse, the U.S. government seems in partnership with the Kremlin: Our government has revoked Browder’s visa. (American-born, Browder is a British citizen.)
What the …? Let this error be corrected speedily. It’s Putin’s killers and thieves who should be barred from the U.S., not their nemesis, Browder.
On Thursday, Putin went off on Browder, personally. Obviously, Browder is under the guy’s skin. He’s in his head. Putin further said that Magnitsky acts are the fruit of “anti-Russian hysteria.” Funny, that’s what his supporters and apologists in the West say, too. I hear it from the Right — the populist-nationalist Right — and I hear it from the Left. (Are Julian Assange and Oliver Stone still classifiable as Left? Or are they broadly pro-dictator?)
I can only repeat that great martyr Nemtsov: Magnitsky acts are pro-Russian, and nobly so. So is Bill Browder.