The grief trickles down
Vladimir Putin saved the worst for last in 2012. It's hard to imagine a more dispiriting end to the year than the law Mr. Putin signed last week, preventing Americans from adopting Russian orphans.
Although there have been some documented cases of adopted children being mistreated by American adoptive parents, that's not the motive for the new Russian law.
Rather, it's retaliation for an amendment in an American-Russian trade law - approved by Congress and signed by President Obama - that establishes visa restrictions and freezes assets of Russian officials who are believed to be involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky.
Mr. Magnitsky, 37, a London-based lawyer for a major investment house, alleged that Russian officials had engaged in a $230 million tax fraud scheme. He was arrested in Russia in 2009 on tax evasion charges that human rights activists believe to be bogus. In prison while awaiting trial, Mr. Magnitsky was beaten and denied medical care, leading to his death. Recently a Russian court acquitted the only prison official implicated in Mr. Magnitsky's death.
It is one thing for U.S. and Russian politicians to argue over human rights. It's tragic that Mr. Putin has transferred the pain to tens of thousands of Russian orphans and the American families who could help those kids toward better lives.
But, as in many such disputes, the grief trickles down to the most vulnerable.