There are chances of strengthening and improving relations with the incoming Trump administration by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision not to expel U.S. diplomats in response to U.S. sanctions.
On Thursday President Barack Obama officially sanctioned the Russian government for purportedly trying to influence the 2016 presidential election. Expelling 35 Russian diplomats and seizing Russian government property are included in the sanctions. Putin’s Foreign Minister had implied that the Russian government would respond in the same manner, until he made a surprise announcement Friday that Russia would not take any penalizing action.
Managing editor of the Moscow Times, Oliver Carroll, called the decision a “masterstroke” in an article Friday for Foreign Policy magazine. “Russia’s normal response to what it considers aggressive actions from the West is to act reciprocally, and asymmetrically.” Carroll explained.
“Putin is going out of his way to not take Obama seriously; is making a good-will gesture, presumably with the hope and expectation that Donald Trump will respond in kind.” said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, who spent decades in the C.I.A. tracking Russia while Mr. Putin was rising in the K.G.B. Putin’s decision apparently “humiliated” Obama in its non-response and set the preferred tone for his relationship with the U.S. under President-Elect Trump’s leadership.
Foreign policy analysts across the spectrum saw the move as a chance for Donald Trump to continue on a path to resetting the U.S. relationship with Russia. Trump countered almost immediately with a congratulatory message, saying Putin’s decision was “very smart.” Trump’s ability to restore friendly relations with Russia will be essential to his managing a number of geopolitical issues including Syria, Ukraine, and the Iran deal.
Trump’s own party may continue to give opposition to his Russia policy depending on what that actually is. “I’m plenty concerned about it and upset about it, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said of Russia’s alleged actions. Senator Marco Rubio also said the sanctions were “long overdue” and vowed to strengthen measures against Russia.
In the middle of this seeming Republican consensus, it may be exceedingly difficult for Trump to reverse Obama’s punitive sanctions against Moscow unless Obama’s cries of hacking are untrue. So far, there is no proof that clearly states Russia altered the U.S. election in any way.