When it comes to the latest duel between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, President-elect Donald Trump made no secret of who he thinks won the showdown.
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2016
“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Trump tweeted Friday.
Earlier Friday, Putin said he would not respond to the deportation of Russian intelligence officials in the U.S. by expelling Americans from Russia and said he hoped to deal with issues related to the U.S. with Trump.
— РоссиЯ 🇷🇺 (@Russia) December 30, 2016
On Thursday, Obama ordered 35 Russian diplomats expelled as part of a package of sanctions against Russia for its involvement in hacking the Democratic National Committee.
Trump’s initial reaction to the sanctions had been a statement saying America must “move on” and that he would meet with U.S. intelligence officials next week to hear more from them about how the DNC was hacked.
Experts assessed the diplomatic chess moves of Putin, Trump and Obama.
“Putin is going out of his way to not take Obama seriously,” said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, formerly of the CIA. “He is making a good-will gesture, presumably with the hope and expectation that Donald Trump will respond in kind.”
“The sanctions were clearly an attempt by the Obama administration to throw a wrench into – or box in – the next administration’s relationship with Russia,” said Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“Putin, in part, saw through that and sidestepped it by playing good cop to (Russian foreign minister Sergey) Lavrov and the Duma, who were calling for a reciprocal response,” he said.
However, making the sanctions go away is not a likely option, one expert said.
“There is now a public record of what Russia did and why they did it,” said Zachary Goldman, executive director of New York University Law School’s Center on Law and Security, referring to a joint Department of Homeland Security and FBI report issued Thursday. “Even if the sanctions can be unwound, you can’t make that public statement go away.”
Another noted the Obama administration went beyond past practices to indict Russia in the eyes of the world.
“The goal here was to make it abundantly clear that Russia was behind the hacking attempts,” said John Hughes, a former sanctions expert at both the Treasury and State Departments.
“I can’t remember a time that they’ve done so much to declassify certain information and make it clear how Russia is doing this and pointing a smoking gun at the Russian intelligence services. That is pretty significant,” he said.
Some said Russia will keep on hacking its way into other nations’ elections.
“The sanctions are targeted, not sectoral, and will have a very limited impact,” said Thomas Wright, a fellow and director of the Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institute. “This will not deter Putin from interfering in French or German elections in 2017.”
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