President Obama (right) has imposed economic sanctions against top Russians close to President Vladimir Putin (left)
The US government on Thursday, announced new sanctions against Russia in response to the country’s meddling in the 2016 election. The Obama administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats while imposing sanctions on some members of the intelligence service close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a press release the US president announced: “Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election. These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior,” President Obama said in a statement released Thursday.
The measures include expulsion of a 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S., shutting down two Russian-owned facilities in New York and Maryland that the administration said have been used for intelligence operations, and economic measures targeting four top Russian intelligence officials close to President Vladimir Putin.
According to the release, the sanctions target two Russian intelligence services as well as three companies “that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.”
It is believed the plan also likely involves covert cyber-operations against Russia, a notion reinforced by the statement of a senior administration official who told the media during a conference call that the measures “should not be taken for the sum total of our response.”
There are speculations regarding the prospect of President-elect Donald Trump keeping the sanctions in place in spite of his repeated refusal to acknowledge the widespread consensus in the intelligence community that Russia was behind the hacks of top politicians including the Democratic National Committee chair and a top Hillary Clinton staffer. Those emails, released publicly via Wikileaks throughout the campaign, hurt Clinton’s campaign and helped boost Trump.
US President-elect Donald Trump. Disagrees with the notion that Russia is behind election period hacking. Will he leave Obama administration sanctions against Putin and his allies in place?
“I think we ought to get on with our lives,” Trump said when asked about potential sanctions Wednesday evening. “I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of the computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind of security we need.”
Earlier this month Trump had tweeted his disbelief in the widely held consensus that Russia was behind hacking of the DNC and other democratic operatives
Senior Obama administration officials conceded that Trump could undo the executive actions when he becomes President in three weeks — but indicated that it would be politically difficult to do so.
“I don’t think it would make much sense to invite back in Russian intelligence agents,” said one official. “Hypothetically you could reverse these sanctions but it wouldn’t make a lot of sense.”
Democrats were quick to encourage Trump to listen to intelligence officials and stick to the sanctions — while some top Republicans offered support as well
“I hope the incoming Trump administration, which has been far too close to Russia throughout the campaign and transition, won’t think for one second about weakening these new sanctions or our existing regime,” incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for a united fron across party lines to combat external interferance: “Both parties ought to be united in standing up to Russian interference in our elections, to their cyberattacks, their illegal annexation of Crimea and other extra-legal interventions.” Schumaer said in a statement immediately after the announcement.
Russian embassy in the UK responded to the news of US expulsion of Russian diplomats with a rude twitter poster
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also offered measured support for the moves,
“Russia does not share America’s interests. In fact, it has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability around the world. While today’s action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia. And it serves as a prime example of this administration’s ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world,” Spealer Ryan said in a statement.
Two Russian [US based] intelligence services as well as three companies “that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.” have been sanctioned
GOP Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) concurred in a joint statement, calling the move “long overdue” and promising to push for “stronger sanctions” in Congress next year.
Russia issuead an official reponse, mocking the Obama administration and calling the sanctions “futile and counterproductive”. The putin government has promised to respond in kind to the U.S. expulsion of Russian government officials and will consider sanctions in response.
TheRussian news agency Interfax quotes Russian foreign ministry commissioner on human rights Konstantin Dolgov said as saying: “I may only re-confirm that the sanction hysteria demonstrates the complete lack of orientation in space of the outgoing U.S. administration”.
Russia’s embassy in the United Kingdom went even further, mocking Obama with a tweet from its official account featuring a photo of a “lame duck” that said both Russia and America “will be glad to see the last of this hapless” administration.
The community of US intelligience services publicly declared their support for President Obama’s response. The FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement that the “activity by Russian intelligence services is part of a decade-long campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. Government and its citizens,” further fleshing out consensus within intelligence circles that Russia was behind the hacks.