Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Friday that he would not retaliate against the round of U.S. sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. In a statement, Putin said that while his government denies the accusations made by American intelligence agencies, he would not kick U.S. diplomats out of the country.
“Although we have the right to retaliate, we will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian-U.S. relations based on the policies of the Trump administration,” he said. “We will not expel anyone. We will not prevent their families and children from using their traditional leisure sites during the New Year’s holidays. Moreover, I invite all children of U.S. diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas children’s parties in the Kremlin.”
In addition to ordering sanctions, President Obama announced Thursday that 35 Russian diplomats would be escorted out of the country for their role in the alleged hacks.
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” Obama said. “Such activities have consequences.”
Putin has been known to retaliate when hit by sanctions; the fact that he’s not doing so this time indicates that he is merely waiting for Donald Trump to take office on January 20. Trump has expressed doubts about the hacks and said last week that it was “time for our country to move on to bigger and better things.”
On Friday, Trump praised Putin for his restraint.
“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he was very smart!” Trump tweeted.
Here, Trump is just messing with Obama. The president knows where he stands on this issue. He knows he could have consulted with Trump and come up with a mutually agreed-upon solution here. He knows that Trump wants to pursue a different kind of relationship with Russia than the one he forged. By taking this kind of action, Obama is not only exercising his right as President, he’s deliberately trying to extend his influence into Trump’s tenure.
There’s no particular reason to debate whether or not Russia was really behind the hacks. Without top-secret security clearance, we’re never going to have the information we need to make an informed judgement call. But even if we assume that everything the Obama administration is saying is true, what is the gameplan here? For a self-proclaimed man of peace, Obama can’t seem to grasp the wisdom of de-escalating tensions with a nuclear-armed country.
Oh, but Trump is the one we can’t trust with the codes. Okay. Sure.