President Obama ordered the expulsion of Russian diplomats and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over involvement in hacking the computer files of the Democratic Party and other groups in the U.S.
A total of 96 Russians are expected to leave the United States. As part of the sanctions, Russia was ordered to close two compounds here alleged to be used by Russian personnel for “intelligence-related purposes.”
“We will not expel anyone,” Russian President Vladimir Putin responded in a statement but added that Russia reserved the right to retaliate. President-elect Donald Trump praised Putin for his restraint in response to U.S. action to spying and cyber attacks.
Mr. Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay – I always knew he was very smart!” Putin in a complimentary colloquy said, “Further steps towards the restoration of Russian-American relations will be built on the basis of the policy which the administration of President D. Trump will carry out.”
Mr. Trump has praised Putin and nominated Moscow-friendly people to senior administration positions, but if he reverses Mr. Obama’s actions, it will encourage Russia to increase its aggression throughout the world including the cyber world.
Interestingly, Putin seems to be sure of the policies that Mr. Trump will adopt before he has taken the oath of office. U.S. intelligence agencies have said Russia was behind hacks into the computers of the Democratic Party and other organizations during the presidential election in an effort to help Mr. Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Trump has consistently brushed aside those allegations from the U.S. intelligence agencies and stated, “It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things.” However, he consented to meeting with U.S. intelligence officials on the subject of cyber attacks.
A senior U.S. official on Thursday said that it would be ill-advised if Mr. Trump reversed the expulsion orders and sanctions upon taking office. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson called the Obama administration “a group of embittered and dim-witted foreign policy losers” in response to the expulsions and orders.
What should be done in light of the information that Russia had no hesitation to sponsor violations of the property and security of American people and organizations? Well, it should have no place in any discussion of the legitimacy of the 2016 presidential election. The race and the campaigns are over, and we have a candidate ready to take office in the usual manner of succession.
However, no matter how enamored Mr. Trump may be with Putin, the president of the United States must be aware of all threats and take appropriate action when they are detected. Russia has ramped up its ability to wage cyber warfare and if the information reflects that groups sponsored by the government of Russia have attacked our public and private records, then we must respond.
Mr. Obama’s response is measured and proportional to the level of intrusion alleged. Mr. Trump was elected to make the people of the United States happy, not Vladimir Putin.
Therefore, he must stand up for our nation and its citizens but that does not require a return to the Cold War. A reasonable but tough stance will not prevent Mr. Trump from improving relations with Russia and it would not require him to take back the sanctions.
If Mr. Trump reverses the sanctions, he will appear weak and he will weaken the United States when he has promised supporters a great and strong nation. This is an opportunity to be strong while he can deflect blame to his predecessor, which will be a barometer of just how good a deal-maker he will be for America in foreign relations.