By Koustubh Tol
On 29th December 2016, the outgoing US President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats, and put sanctions on 4 Russian individuals and 5 entities, as they were allegedly involved in the recently concluded presidential elections.
The Obama Administration described Russia’s role as “Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities”.
The move comes two weeks after Obama assured strong actions after the US intelligence agencies confirmed Russia’s involvement.
Though many expected Obama’s firm action against Russia, what surprised everyone was the absence of any diplomatic retaliation from Putin’s side. The two countries have had a history of reciprocal expulsions. Putin’s unprecedented silence on such provocation by the United States can be attributed to two major reasons.
The Trump factor
The US intelligence agencies have accused the Russian Government of committing cyber fraud by hacking and publishing the emails of the Democratic National Committee, to augment the chances of Trump’s victory.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, blamed Putin for his interference in the elections. However, she couldn’t gather enough public support to make it the prime issue of the elections.
The US President-elect Donald Trump, on the other hand, has been praising Russian President Vladimir Putin since his campaigning days. It did not come as a surprise when Trump’s choice for secretary of state was the Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who is under the limelight for his close ties with the Russian President.
Though Trump recently tweeted that he will have a meeting with the US intelligence leaders regarding the cyber security issue, he asked the people of the country to “move on to bigger and better things”. He even praised Putin for not reacting to Washington’s provocations. With Trump giving less importance to the issue, many in Washington are skeptical of the Trump-Putin relations.
“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Trump tweeted
Putin, on the other hand, got what he wanted. By not reacting to Obama’s provocation, he has exemplified his ignorance towards the outgoing US administration.
Tenuous US-Russia relations
The Syrian crisis has inadvertently guided the US-Russia relations to a new low since the end of Cold War.
Interference in the US elections has only added fuel to the fire. With the growing anxiety of the Americans over Obama’s domestic and foreign policies, the Trump win came as the final blow to the outgoing President.
Many see the expulsion of the Russian diplomats as a desperate final move by Obama to remind Russia of the consequences of interfering in the internal matters of the United States.
Hopes from the future administration
Putin is playing his cards safely. His move shows his patience to wait for the next administration to come in and initiate foreign policy and diplomatic strategies. By reacting to Obama’s stern action, Putin would have hampered the US-Russia ties. Thereby, making it difficult for Trump to improve the status quo.
Considering the past sanctions by the United States, Russia obviously hopes for fruitful economic and diplomatic relations between the two in the future – which, one expects, may eventually lead to a less polarised world.
It would be safe to say that some of Obama’s decisions in the recent past have been a blunder. From Obamacare to Syrian crisis, there have been many ups and downs in the last 8 years. Most of them were covered extensively by Trump in targeting the Democrats during his election campaign.
Now that Trump is the President-elect, only time will tell if the new administration succeeds in delivering its promises, especially the ones on the international front.
Featured Image Courtesy: Russian Insider