David Satter isn’t entirely wrong here:
In fact, rescinding Jackson-Vanik without passing the Magnitsky Law would be tantamount to abandoning any serious attempt to influence the internal situation in Russia and would not lead to a more “open and prosperous Russia.”
There is no guarantee that repealing Jackson-Vanik and establishing normal trade relations with Russia would lead to a more “open and prosperous” Russia. Whether or not Russia becomes more “open” is entirely out of American hands. The U.S. has not been able to influence Russia’s political system for the better at any time in the last twenty years. Prosperity doesn’t necessarily lead to greater political liberalization. Clinton was overstating the case when she said that normal trade relations will “support the political and economic changes that Russia’s people are demanding.” Normal trade relations might or might not provide support for those changes. What is certain is that failing to establish normal trade relations with Russia deprives U.S. businesses of opportunities they could have.
The illusion that Satter promotes here is that the Magnitsky Act would positively influence internal conditions in Russia. As others have explained at some length, the Magnitsky Act is not going to remedy Russian official corruption and abuses. The bill’s penalties are not going to coerce Russian officials to change the way they behave at home. The legislation would be an irritant in the relationship that will make no practical difference. In other words, the Magnitsky Act is not a “serious attempt” to influence the situation in Russia. It reflects, as Raymond Sontag put it so well earlier this year, “an impulse to engage in self-righteous posturing rather than in crafting serious strategy.”