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Kremlin counts days to Trump’s inauguration, blasts Obama

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Russian prosecutors in Moscow, Russia.

MOSCOW >> With eager anticipation, the Kremlin is counting the days to Donald Trump’s inauguration and venting its anger at Barack Obama’s outgoing administration, no holds barred.

Careful not to hurt chances for a thaw in U.S.-Russia relations, President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have deferred questions about their plans for future contacts with Trump and any agenda for those talks until he takes office on Friday.

Trump’s open admiration of Putin has brought wide expectations of improved Moscow-Washington relations, but Trump has not articulated a clear Russia policy. His Cabinet nominees include both a retired general with a hawkish stance on Russia and an oil executive who has done extensive business in Russia.

At the same time, Russian officials are blasting the outgoing U.S. administration in distinctly undiplomatic language, dropping all decorum after Obama hit Moscow with more sanctions in his final weeks in office.

Moscow calls Obama’s team a “bunch of geopolitical losers” engaged in a last-ditch effort to inflict the maximum possible damage to U.S.-Russia ties to make it more difficult for Trump to mend the rift.

In a clear effort to avoid risking a rapprochement with Trump, Putin showed remarkable restraint when the U.S. expelled 35 Russian diplomats over accusations of meddling in the U.S. election campaign. Instead of a usual tit-for-tat response, Putin invited U.S. diplomats’ children to a New Year’s party at the Kremlin.

Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. were in frequent contact in recent weeks, including on Dec. 29, the day Obama hit Moscow with sanctions in retaliation for election-related hacking, according to a senior U.S. official.

Moscow similarly refrained from retaliation when the White House last week added five Russians, including the chief of Russia’s top state investigative agency, to the U.S. sanctions list.

On Sunday, Vice President-elect Mike Pence insisted the Trump presidential campaign had no contacts with Russia and denied that the incoming national security adviser spoke with Russian officials in December about sanctions. He added that such questions were part of an effort to cast doubt on Trump’s victory.

While Putin and his lieutenants hope Trump will open up to Russia, they know any attempt to fix ties will face massive obstacles, including possible strong resistance in the U.S. Congress.

“Any future contacts will have to be prepared quite accurately and thoroughly, as they would follow a tense period,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Fyodor Lukyanov, chair of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, a group of Russian foreign policy experts, said Syria is one area where a U.S.-Russian rapport is likely.

During the call with Flynn, the Russian ambassador invited U.S. officials to a conference on Syria in Kazakhstan later this month, according to a transition official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

In an interview Friday with The Wall Street Journal, Trump said he might do away with Obama’s sanctions if Russia works with the U.S. on battling terrorists and achieving other goals.

The Kremlin would be eager to embrace a U.S. offer of cooperation on Syria. Obama’s administration had refused to coordinate action against the IS with Russia, saying Moscow was bent on shoring up Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The complexity of the conflict in Syria — where opposition groups backed by regional players are pitted against Assad’s troops and often fight each other — makes hopes for quick progress elusive.

“Russia and the United States are important players (in Syria) but not the only ones,” Lukyanov said.

He noted that nuclear arms control is another possible area where Moscow and Washington could try to find common ground. While new arms control treaties are unlikely, the two countries may try to find ways to increase global stability, Lukyanov said.

Putin has pushed for the U.S. to recognize Moscow as an equal global heavyweight and to acknowledge that Russia’s ex-Soviet neighbors are in its sphere of “vital interests” — demands rejected by the West. Many in Russia hope that Trump could be more inclined to strike a “grand bargain” with Putin, carving up spheres of influence and helping cement Russia’s role as a global power.

Alexander Lebedev, a multimillionaire Russian owner of Britain’s Evening Standard and Independent newspapers, believes that Putin wants a “big deal” that would envisage cooperation in Syria and possible cooperation in other spheres.

“$1 trillion a year is stolen by global banks and companies and moved offshore,” Lebedev said, adding that Russia and the U.S. could launch a worldwide crackdown on corrupt business practices.

U.S.-Russian relations have sunk to a post-Cold War low over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and support for a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine. A 2015 peace deal helped end large-scale battles in eastern Ukraine, but clashes have continued. The U.S. and the European Union have slapped Russia with economic sanctions and made their lifting contingent on the Ukraine peace deal’s progress.

While the Kremlin counts on Trump to roll the sanctions back, many observers are skeptical.

“In the current atmosphere, it’s very difficult to imagine how Trump could start canceling the sanctions,” Lukyanov said.

U.S. allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election top the list of irritants.

U.S. intelligence officials’ accusations that Russian hackers — acting on Putin’s orders — interfered into the vote to help Trump win have put the U.S. president-elect in a difficult position. Trump has grudgingly conceded that Russia was likely responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee, but emphasized there was no evidence that hacking affected the U.S. election results.

The Kremlin has rejected the hacking accusations and also hotly denied reports that it has collected compromising information about Trump.

Aware that an open show of support for Trump would only make it more difficult for him to restore ties, Russian officials have mostly focused on blasting Obama’s administration.

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of foreign affairs committee in the upper house of parliament, described the White House’s decision to expel Russian diplomats as an “agony of not even lame ducks, but political corpses.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova went further.

“If ‘Russian hackers’ hacked anything in America, there were two things: Obama’s brain, and, of course, the report about ‘Russian hackers,’” she wrote on Facebook.

Zakharova charged that “Obama and his illiterate foreign policy team have dealt a crushing blow to America’s prestige and leadership” and described his administration as “a bunch of geopolitical losers, enraged and shortsighted.”

Obama’s administration still has a few days left to “destroy the world,” Zakharova wrote.

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Associated Press writer Julie Pace in Washington, D.C., contributed to this story.

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  • Putin’s a dictator – a czar in modern apparel: Vlad the Impaler II. His boy will be coronated as amerikka’s king. The dictator is more than happy to have a tool in DC.

    • All global leaders could be called dictators. But the real dictators are called global bankers, those who manipulate
      global economies and who are the real puppet masters.

    • Trump is easy to blackmail given his corrupt, criminal behavior. Trump has already indicated he will be a stooge for a dangerous, vicious right-wing government in Israel and an authoritarian dictator in Russia. Trump, a lousy and dishonest businessman, has already failed and disgraced America.

        • lespark is right yet again.

          Trump is going to make fabulous police state, just like Putin’s Russia, only more classy.

          That’s just what strong winners do. Especially when facing constant attacks by the press.

          Five more days to the Great American Police State.

          Yippee!

        • It is my impression that it is not much point in replying to allie.
          I am sure that at heart she may be a nice person, but I think she has problems in her processing.

          Some people suffer from a disturbance known in some technical circles as “identification”.
          it is a functional problem in which someone does not distinguish between the categories and generalities in their minds from the individual actions and events in reality.
          You can see it in their posts, almost always a litany of negative invectives, broad negative generalities without any support, or at best single examples from which some gross generalization is drawn.
          People who “think” like this think that they have discovered some great insight.
          I suspect they may have learned this, or at least been encouraged in it, by studying in some university department whose subject revolves around this kind of failed thinking

          You do not have to look far to find this kind of thing, including grand pronouncements about “police states”.

  • No surprise here. Spending all those years in the KGB, Putin learned his tricks well. Trump is Putin’s “unwitting agent”. In spy jargon, an “unwitting agent” is someone who does what you want them to do, without them knowing that they’re doing it on their behalf….sums up Trump perfectly….

  • Yes! A Putin & Trump alliance…I cannot wait to pillage & loot the entire world at their side! Together they will crush all enemies and see them driven. The lamentation of the dems & libs is already in full effect! Crooked Hillary’s plan to keep the Saudis in her pantsuit pocket has drastically failed and the Clinton Foundation will soon be depleted from a lack of power – The party is over! Pocahontas, Crazy Bernie, Crooked Hillary and their worshipers are in frantic denial, and those who alleged that there would be mayhem and division with a Trump defeat are the very ones causing the division & mayhem themselves. My driver-less gas guzzling monster 4X4 with a mind of it’s own like Christine eagerly awaits to annihilate every Prius & Leaf in it’s path to make America great again. There’s no room for mamby-pamby sissies anymore as the day of deliverance approaches!

    • The power of the Dark side is strong in this one, Donald. Oh yes-s-s-s. Our numbers are growing stronger.

      Five more days until Trump’s Greatness is unleashed on America!

      Ka-boom!

  • I remain convinced having Trump at the helm will still be less damaging than a Clinton reign would have been. I am increasingly getting nervous however as I had expected him to become normalized as the reality of the win set in and the enormity of the job ahead caught his focus. I’m patiently waiting for someone with some semblance of presidential character to morph out of the caricature we’ve seen to date.
    Hopefully at a minimum he will heed the advice and accept the guidance of those he’s chosen to fill key positions, many of which seem competent and well chosen. Another concern that crops up is the potential overreaction of a GOP led congress, inflamed by the rhetoric of overzealous voices intent on obstructionism. Given the power, focusing more on effectively legislating the sought after changes far outweighs the petulant need to hammer the opposition into submission. As a nation, we can ill afford a continuation of the bitter divide that has hobbled us for so long.
    All that being said, I’m not very hopeful things are going to truly improve..

    • great comment, hawaiikone. you seem to be a reasonable person. i think for most of us we need to be careful of what we read in the media since they’re looking for ‘headlines’. in other words, i’ve found many articles using selected facts to form am eye catching story. then they include speculation and opinions which are not facts.
      obama did some good things but the big divide in our country is one thing that under his leadership became a lot worse. with trump continuing his ways and the dems doing silly partisan politics, e.g. not attending the inauguration, saying Trump shouldn’t be president, ugh … it is difficult to be optimistic. the hope is the clowns on the hill will remember that they serve us, all of us, the american people.

      • I’ve always believed an optimist is often disappointed, whereas a pessimist is often pleasantly surprised. No sense being a realist, as no one actually knows what’s going on…

  • With Puerto Rico wanting to join the U.S. as a state, what a great time to re-design our flag! We can add a star, but also embellish it with a hammer and sickle. While we’re at it, also change our national anthem to something including “comrades” and “vodka”. Yay! Party time!!

  • We probably need to wait and see if any good will come from a reset in our relations with Russia. It’s something that the Republicans want to do. It’s their fault if anything bad happens.

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