Democratic accusations against Russia over interference in the 2016 presidential election have finally brought about a reaction from President Barack Obama. But due to the fact that his term is about to expire, it’s probably a case of “too little, too late” more than anything else.
The White House announced the government would be kicking 35 suspected Russian spies out of the country, sanctioning select known members of the Russian intelligence services and closing two Russian-owned spying compounds — one on New York’s Long Island and the other in Pioneer Point, Maryland.
The smaller of the compounds, a massive 36-room mansion in the Upper Brookville region of the Long Island’s Oyster Bay, was purchased in 1952 as a “weekend retreat” for Russian diplomats and contains a soccer field and an indoor pool. But the location of the compound was more important than rest and relaxation for visiting personnel; it was specifically chosen due to its proximity to notable U.S. defense contractor facilities.
The larger 45-acre compound in Maryland was apparently the scene of vodka-fueled parties for diplomats associated with the Russian embassy in Washington. Its location, too, was strategic, being not far from many government buildings and agencies.
“[The Russians] wanted to infiltrate those defense contractors to find out what America is up to militarily — what kind of weapons are they using and making,” said a high-ranking former U.S. intelligence official. They are still old school in that they infiltrate people who work for companies in order to gather information that will help Russia.”
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” said Obama in Hawaii while vacationing there. “Such activities have consequences.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan stated Obama’s efforts are “an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy” with Moscow but that they “[serve] as a prime example of this administration’s ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world.”
At the same time, one can only think that these acts are sour grapes since the FBI first reported Russian hacking of emails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) more than a year ago. In April, a top Obama administration aide met Russian officials to formally complain about the invasive cyber attacks.
The White House declined to reveal this fact publicly for months. This was after years of objectionable Russian behavior, from the invasion of Crimea to the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which was traced by Dutch investigators to a Russian missile.
Eventually, the U.S. sanctioned a few Russian oligarchs, but it didn’t make more serious efforts, such as resurrecting a proposed missile-defense strategy for Eastern Europe or extending non-lethal aid to Ukraine in its recent conflict with Russia. In fact, it’s possible to make the case that Obama’s lack of action actually helped Russia and may have encouraged it to push limits in both Europe and Syria.
It’s plausible that with the aforementioned responses, Obama thinks that he’ll anger Russian President Vladimir Putin and that Putin will take his anger out on new American President-Elect Donald Trump.
The initial reaction from Moscow was one of displeasure. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the Obama administration a “group of foreign policy losers, angry and shallow-brained.” Zakharova claimed Americans had been “humiliated by their own president” and compared Obama’s actions to those of American leaders in the Cold War.
The Russian embassy in the U.K. tweeted a picture of a duck with the word “lame” superimposed over it, accompanied by text reading, “President Obama expels 35 diplomats in Cold War deja vu… everybody will be glad to see the last of this hapless administration.”
But Russian President Putin has already seen past Obama’s efforts. Instead of countering the acts, he metaphorically shrugged his shoulders, saying, “Russian diplomats returning home will spend the New Year holidays with their relatives and dear ones. We will not create problems for U.S. diplomats… Reserving our right to respond, we will not stoop to a ‘kitchen’ level of irresponsible diplomacy, and we will take further steps to rebuild Russian-American relations based on the policy carried out by the administration of President Donald Trump.”
Rather than expelling 35 American diplomats in a tit-for-tat measure directed at Obama, Putin instead invited the diplomats’ children to a Christmas and New Year’s party at the Kremlin; Putin is clearly looking forward to a probable “reset” of relations with the U.S. after Trump takes off on January 20.
Hours later, Trump praised Putin’s tactfulness. “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he was very smart!” the President-Elect tweeted.
Many analysts agreed with Trump’s take. “Putin’s reaction to sanctions effectively communicates he feels Obama’s done, can be ignored and that Trump [is] already making U.S. foreign policy,” tweeted David Rothkopf, Foreign Policy magazine’s editor-in-chief.
While it may be diplomatically unacceptable for Trump to reverse these moves by Obama, it seems clear a new Russian “reset” is in the cards for the near future. The two men have a good relationship, and it doesn’t make sense for either country to pursue the policy of naked aggression that the Obama administration has been pressing in its last days.
However, that does not preclude a buildup of the countries’ respective military (and nuclear) arsenals. Both Trump and Putin have indicated such plans may be in store for the coming years.
~American Liberty Report