AMERICA'S ANTI-RUSSIAN MANEUVER: A COMMENT
"The US has announced sweeping new sanctions against Russia in retaliation for cyber attacks against the Democratic National Committee and the emails of a key Hillary Clinton adviser that it claims were orchestrated by the Kremlin. President Barack Obama said he had issued sanctions against Russia’s two main intelligence services — the FSB and the GRU — along with sanctions against six individuals: four of them high-ranking GRU members and two of them individual Russian hackers. Separately, the state department also expelled 35 Russian intelligence operatives stationed in the Russian embassy in Washington and the Russian consulate in San Francisco for activity that the US said was “inconsistent with their diplomatic status”. This, it said, was in response to alleged harassment of US diplomats by Russia. The Russian officials have been given 72 hours to leave the country. The new measures represent a significant escalation in the US’s stand-off with Russia. The expulsion of close to three-dozen Russian officials is one of the biggest such expulsions in a decade. “All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” Mr Obama said in a statement. “In addition to holding Russia accountable for what it has done, the United States and friends and allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behaviour, and interfere with democratic governance.”Courtney Weaver, Sam Fleming and Kathrin Hille, "US expels Russian spies over election hacking". The Financial Times. 30 December 2016, in www.ft.com.
"In a head-spinning turn of events on Friday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia announced that he would not retaliate against President Obama’s decision to expel Russian diplomats and impose new sanctions — hours after his foreign minister recommended doing just that. Mr. Putin, betting on improved relations with the next American president, said he would not eject 35 diplomats or close any diplomatic facilities, rejecting a response to actions taken by the Obama administration on Thursday. The switch was remarkable, given that the foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, had just recommended the retaliation in remarks broadcast live on national television, and given the long history of reciprocal expulsions between the two countries. Russian officials have traditionally been sticklers for diplomatic protocol. “While we reserve the right to take reciprocal measures, we’re not going to downgrade ourselves to the level of irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy,” Mr. Putin said, using a common Russian idiom for quarrelsome and unseemly acts. “In our future steps on the way toward the restoration of Russia-United States relations, we will proceed from the policy pursued by the administration” of Donald J. Trump".Neil MacFarquhar, "Vladimir Putin Won’t Expel U.S. Diplomats as Russian Foreign Minister Urged". The New York Times. 30 December 2016, in www.nytimes.com. Just like American Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry speech earlier this week on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the actions undertaken by the outgoing American Administration concerning Russia's undoubted interference in the recently concluded American Presidential election is very much a case of too little too late. Given the pro-Russian tendencies of elements of the incoming Trump Administration, it would have behooved the current American Administration to have acted upon the intelligence evidence that was in evidence going back to last summer and damned the political consequences. At that time, any such action, while perhaps controversial (with who exactly other than the Republican Presidential candidate and his immediate coterie?), would have given immediate and hard effect by retaliating for Russian behavior. However, but not acting in time and I would argue in the full quantity of expulsion and other moves: such as expelling double or triple the number of diplomats and engaging in black propaganda against Putin and his circle as well as more sanctions against Russian companies, the American Administration merely shows itself to be self-castrated and toothless 1. Hence, Putin's seemingly statesmanlike decision to avoid retaliating against the Americans. Not that Putin is by any means a 'statesmanlike' character. Far from it! Merely that the American decision was not of such significance as to require Russian retaliation. Per contra, if the full measure of sanctions as I have outlined it above had indeed been carried-out, it is quite certain that Putin would have been forced to retaliate and thus the incoming Trump Administration would have (providentially) been boxed-in politically speaking into an appropiate anti-Russian course. Now of course that question is still left up in the air. The first question being if the nomination of Mr. Rex Tillerson to the post of Secretary of State will be approved by the Senate or be blocked. One can only hope that it is the latter and not the former which occurs. Until then, regardless of the recent American move, all options are open as per the future course of Russian-American relations. 1. For a historical example of an appropriate response to Russian behavior on foreign soil, in this case, the expulsion of more than one-hundred Russian diplomatic personnel from Great Britain in 1971, see: Gill Bennett. Six Moments of Crisis: Inside British Foreign Policy. (2013),pp. 123-146.