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Russia, brushing off Obama, looks to friendlier Donald Trump

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a sword while listening an explanations from the head of Russian First Channel Konstantin Ernst, during his meeting with the historical action film Viking’s crew, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Dec. 30, 2016.

Stung by new punishments, Russia is looking straight past President Barack Obama to Donald Trump in hopes the president-elect will reverse the tough U.S. stance toward Moscow of the last eight years. In a stunning embrace of a longtime U.S. adversary, Trump is siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Whether Trump steers the U.S. toward or away from Russia upon taking office is shaping up as the first major test of his foreign policy disposition and his willingness to buck fellow Republicans, who for years have argued Obama wasn’t tough enough. Now that Obama has finally sanctioned Russia over hacking allegations, Putin has essentially put relations on hold till Trump takes over.

“Great move on delay (by V. Putin),” Trump wrote Friday on Twitter. “I always knew he was very smart!”

He was referring to Putin’s announcement that Russia won’t immediately retaliate after Obama ordered sanctions on Russian spy agencies, closed two Russian compounds and expelled 35 diplomats the U.S. said were really spies. Though Putin reserved the right to hit back later, he suggested that won’t be necessary with Trump in office.

Brushing off Obama, Putin said Russia would plan steps to restore U.S. ties “based on the policies that will be carried out by the administration of President D. Trump.” Not only would Russia not kick Americans out, Putin said, he was inviting the kids of all U.S. diplomats to the Kremlin’s New Year’s and Christmas parties.

“At this point, they’re trolling Obama,” said Olga Oliker, who directs the Russia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Obama administration said it had seen Putin’s remarks but had nothing more to say.

Trump’s move to side with a foreign adversary over the sitting U.S. president was a striking departure from typical diplomatic practice. In a sign he wanted maximum publicity, Trump pinned the tweet to the top of his Twitter page so it would remain there indefinitely.

Russia denies the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that in an attempt to help Trump win the presidency, Moscow orchestrated cyber breaches in which tens of thousands of Democrats’ emails were stolen and later made public. Trump, too, has refused to accept that conclusion and insisted the country should just “move on,” though he has agreed to meet next week with intelligence leaders to learn more.

Notably, after the U.S. on Thursday issued a report it said exposed Russia’s cyber tactics, Putin’s aides didn’t offer any specific rebuttal. The report included detailed technical information like IP addresses and samples of malware code the U.S. said Russia uses.

One utility company, Burlington Electric Department in Vermont, reported Friday that it had detected the malware on a company laptop that was not connected to its grid systems. Burlington said, “We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding.”

There’s little certainty about how Trump will actually act on Russia once he takes office Jan. 20. Though he’s praised Putin as a strong leader and said it would be ideal for the two countries to stop fighting, he also suggested this month the U.S. might mount a new nuclear arms race, triggering fresh anxieties about a return to Cold War-style tensions.

Ambassador Michael McFaul, Obama’s former envoy to Russia, said while Trump has defined his top objective as “getting along with the Kremlin,” Putin has higher goals, including the lifting of economic sanctions and, ideally, U.S. recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

“Obviously, Putin’s not responding because he’s waiting for Jan. 20,” McFaul said in an interview. “He’s got these much more important objectives to him than getting into a tit-for-tat response with the outgoing administration.”

Trump’s warm outreach to Putin, combined with picks for secretary of state and national security adviser who are seen as friendly to Russia, have left hawkish Republicans with a particularly unpleasant choice: look hypocritical for backtracking on their own tough talk, or risk a public rift with their party’s new president.

In the House, many Republicans who have long called for tougher sanctions have been silent or vague about Obama’s penalties and Trump’s positions. But a handful of GOP senators have shown they have no intentions of letting up pressure on the Kremlin.

“We intend to lead the effort in the new Congress to impose stronger sanctions on Russia,” said Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, scheduled a hearing next week on “foreign cyber threats” in an attempt to further spotlight Russia’s actions.

Even if Trump opts to pull back Obama’s sanctions and overlook hacking allegations, he may find rapprochement with Russia isn’t that simple. The past two presidents both tried to reach out to Russia early in their terms but left office with relations in no better shape.

Though Trump has suggested the U.S. and Russia should align strategies in Syria by focusing on their mutual enemy, the Islamic State group, Russia’s military campaign has almost exclusively targeted American-backed Syrian rebels, the U.S. has said. Nor is it clear whether Trump and Putin share a common approach to Europe’s security issues.

And if Trump follows through on his vow to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal, he won’t find a receptive audience in Moscow. Putin’s government brokered the deal with the U.S., Iran and other world powers and has no intention of slapping sanctions back on Iran.

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    • Oh, c’mon, Copper Wire, buck up.

      Show some good old fashioned American s p u n k.

      Instead of moping and cringing, look at the bright side:

      Two very powerful men, each the head of a major nuclear power, are looking forward to forging long term harmonious relations ship – – of considerable benefit to their respective nations – – in which not only will differences be candidly acknowledged, but areas of mutual cooperation identified and quite possibly pursued.

      Way I see it, this approach to making actual peace beats the heck out of “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down” unenforced red lines and other clumsy acts of belligerence.

      Indeed this may turn out to be the very “reset” that so thoroughly eluded Felony-Shrillary when she spent four years botching her SecState assignment.

      And Copper Wire, remember the seminal observation offered by the then CJCS in the wake of the stunning 96 hour ground campaing victory over Iraq in that 1991 “mother of all battles” in which Saddam Hussein started out with the fourth largest army in the world and 96 hours later had only the second largest army in Iraq. That observation: Optimism is a great force multiplier.

  • Vlad will play trumpf like his “betch”. Have his hands so far up trumpf aft hole and make his mouth move. Sitting on Vlads lap while he manipulate trumpf s cords. “You are smart Putin”…your the best Putin”….Let’s make russian and america great again! !.

    • Y’know, NKB, instead of such facile, off the cuff sarcasm as Let’s make russian and america great again! , you might want to sober up and review a bit of history.

      There was a time a bit more than 70 years ago when our two nations utterly relied upon each other to defeat a totalitarian dictator who wanted [1] to drive Russians from their land to provide the ‘master race’ the living space it needed to expand in the east and [2] neutralize any threat to the resurgent NSDAP-led Axis posed by England, France and America in the west.

      America’s KIA over that 45 month period totaled what? Circa 400,000, almost all of it military.

      Russia’s KIA, including both civilian and military reached TWENTY FIVE MILLION. That is why the old timers there STILL call it “the great patriotic war”, one they came within a whisker of losing at a place called Stalingrad before the Red Army roared back and in a stunning winter counter-offensive ground up the massive Wehrmacht invaders like so much hamburger.

      While it is true that American corporate CEO’s provided the winning edge to the Allies – – especially in the Pacific – – by suddenly turning America’s massive private sector manufacturing base into the greatest industrial war materials production machine ever seen on this planet; it was the Russians willingness to accept massive losses, relocate almost all of THEIR logistic production centers hundreds of miles from the front and bounce back that made Allied victory in ETO possible.

      To be sure Patton’s 1943 landings in Morocco and Sicily followed by Ike’s almost unimaginably vast 1944 amphibious assault of Normandy did much to take the pressure off Russia, but it was primarily Russia that won the war in Europe.

      The American and Russian people do indeed have their differences, but there is much reason for some genuine people to people – – and government to government – – friendship to begin the process of taking root. Such an opportunity will not likely come again for the rest of this century. We ought not to let it pass because of neglect.

      I respectfully suggest you re-think this issue.

  • To make a long story short Barry is irrelevant. He was a pushover for Putin. His Russian Reset was a huge embarrassment for him and Waldo. The conventional wisdom in the MSM is that Trump is a puppet of Putin but the opposite is true. The PE will look out for American interests instead of apologizing for his country and leading from behind like Barry did.

      • here I will say it again the liberal ten commandments that Obama and Hillary lovers like you and others back. 1.Man is evil and poisoning the earth. 2.the earth is a living organism and needs to be protected. 3.all white people are racist. 4.all people of color are good. 5.all refugees should be allowed in and given whatever they want. 6.if people make to much money, it should be taken away from them. 7.government handouts have no price tag. 8.nature should be protected at all costs, unless you don’t like your gender.9. burning the American flag is protected speech. and 10.all players on the international stage have equal credibility. those are the ten commandments that Obama and Hillary and all other liberals with mental disorders follow.

  • the two neo con ventriloquist and some repubs. and dems. and maobama who don’t like trump want to start a war with Russia even though most American’s don’t want a war with Russia where we could lose more men. Obama could easily send the 82nd airborne into the Ukraine to provoke Russia. the little crybaby demented one would like to do that because putins response about doing nothing to expel U.S. people from Russia, made an A out of maobama.

  • Putin really knows how to play trump, by appealing to his vanity,and trump is just lapping it up. He is such an embarrassment. Congressional republicans aren’t much better, as they, apparently, can’t decide if they should do the right thing by supporting sanctions against the russians or continue to kowtow to their 6 year old “leader.” So much for their calls to be tough against the russians.

    • klastri says:This is going to be a really awful couple of years for (at least) the United States.

      Correction: The Trump administration is going to be a really awful 8 year period for those in this country who excel at throwing childish temper tantrums in their petulant refusal to acknowledge the reasons behind the humiliation of Felony-Shrillary last month.

      And in that context, won’t it be SUCH a relief to have a real, patriot in the White House instead of the current occupant who loathes America and is now particularly bitter because his best efforts to “transform” (read destroy) America have not been sufficient.

      It is quite instructive to watch him revert to his true (mean spirited, small minded, spiteful, America-hating) self in the closing days of his time in office. He has made a dog’s breakfast of his presidency and now his true personality – – the thing he took such pains to cover – – has emerged.

      A truly insightful look at the current occupant of the White House was penned almost four years ago and can be accessed at: http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/scott/130301

      • we shall see where the country is in a year or so. If in 2 years the stock market is around 25000, unemployment is still under 4%, I will admit that the Donald is a success, but will you admit if the stock market falls to under 15000, unemployment rises to 10% the Donald is a flop?

  • Same klasless people who think they are some kind of wannabe boss giving Nanakuli a bad name. All talk and no action. Drain the swamp starting with McCain. The old guy has seen his better days. If Ryan wants to be President he should have run. Mitch better shut his trap or his wife will be out of a job.

  • Does anyone except Allie, believe we don’t hack into other government’s computer?
    Does anyone except Allie, believe we haven’t tried to influence elections in other countries?
    Does anyone except Allie, believe we don’t tap foreign diplomat’s phones, even our staunchest allies ?

    Wake up Allie and smell the Kona and Kauai coffees !

  • Watching Putin play Trump for the desperately needy, naive, uninformed fool that he is would be great entertainment if the stakes weren’t so high. A few undeserved and insincere compliments from Putin and Trump is like a dog humping Putin’s leg.

    • I worked with a man I am proud to call my friend who was a former USSR soldier in Afganistan where they lost in their quest to control. He was also wounded and decorated for his actions there.
      In private conversations with me, he stated that it’s not Mother-Russia that many Russians hate, but it’s the man who rules Russia today.
      Take a look at the (27)-minute bio on NETFLIX, (Putin’s Hidden Treasure-circa 2014). Ever figured how he got to where he is today? Frankly, that’s what Trump admires about that man because, “birds of a feather flock together.”

  • Trump won’t do anything against Russia. Trump gets his business loans from Russia, since American banks refuse to due to Trump’s many foreclosures and business failures. Putin is waiting to pull the strings on his puppet President.

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