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‘US shooting itself in leg, Obama hostage to anti-Russian lobby’

The Magnitsky law and the black-list is a mistake and will damage Russian-US relations despite the recent 'reset' policy, Aleksey Pushkov, head of foreign affairs committee of Russian State Duma, told RT.

Obama is hostage to Congress, yet he will feel the negative effects of the law, Pushkov believes.

RT: How big of a blow is this spat for relations between Russia and the United States?

Aleksey Pushkov: I think it is quite a blow. The Magnitsky Law when adopted by the US Congress and signed by the US president - it was already a blow. And we warned the United States about this. But somehow I think the message did not go through. The feeling in Washington was that they can adopt any laws they want, any type of laws that will interfere in Russian domestic affairs and Moscow will swallow this. Well, Moscow didn't swallow this, and I think that the setting for Mr. Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser for Obama, is very negative indeed. I think that this exchange of 'black-lists' is not something that will really do a lot of good to the already ailing Russian-American relationship.

RT: Ultimately, the US started this row by introducing the Magnitsky Law and publishing its list of Russian officials, do you think Russia was correct to almost stoop to that level? Some might say Russia is even making it worse.

AP: No, Russia didn't make it worse. Russia was responding. Everybody knows that in international politics there is a rule: when you are being attacked politically, you respond in the same way. And there is no way for Russia not to pay attention to what is going on in the US Congress, not to pay attention to what is being done by the US administration. Russia did not make it worse. Russia took the only possible step for a country that is a great power and a member of the Security Council. So, if people in Washington thought that Russia would not react, that these are just words and that America can do whatever it wants without Russia responding, that was a very wrong calculus.

RT: The US administration is saying there is a secret black list that has not being published yet, but there are reports it contains more serious names, for example the head of Russia's Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov.

AP: I think the meaning of the black list is to forbid the entry to the United States to a certain number of Russian citizens. And I heard there are some important personalities on that black list. But the irony of all of this is that president Obama has become hostage to this list, has become hostage to the anti-Russian elements in the US congress, because basically Obama needs cooperation with Russia, be that on North Korea, on Iran, on so many other regional and global issues. He needs cooperation if he wants to make progress in the cuts to nuclear armaments and so on. By having signed this law and by having enlarged the list he has become a hostage to a very negative dynamic in the relationship. It's like shooting oneself in the leg. I don't really see the rational for that from the point of view of the Obama administration which claims to be an administration that is paying attention to multilateralism, to international partnerships. Well, I can say that by having enlarged the list, Obama administration is definitely narrowing the possibilities for such partnership with Russia.

RT: Russia says it has its own secret black list. Perhaps you know some names on that list?

AP: No, I don't. I suppose you have to look at categories of people that were mentioned by the Russian foreign ministry back in December, who are supposed to be on such a list according to the law that was adopted by the Russian parliament in December. These are the people connected with secret prisons, with tortures, also those who have damaged rights of Russian citizens abroad and so on. I don't know the names, but I know the categories of people who can be targeted by such a secret list.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.