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Obama acts tough against Russia

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington.  

President Barack Obama on Thursday announced a raft of retaliatory measures against Russia for its alleged interference in the recent U.S elections. The measures include new sanctions, expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S and closure of two Russian establishments in the country.

With Russia threatening to hit back with equally harsh measures, the bilateral relations are set to plummet to a new low ahead of the transition of power in the U.S. The President’s strident steps against Russia found instant approval from Republican veterans, potentially pre-empting a new beginning with Moscow that Donald Trump, who will be Mr. Obama’s successor in three weeks, has planned.

The move against Russia is the second instance in seven days in which Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump appear to be at loggerheads with each other on critical foreign policy questions. The Obama administration’s refusal to veto a U.N resolution that chided Israel last week for construction in occupied territories railed Mr. Trump, who has selected a supporter of settlements as his ambassador to Israel. While Mr. Obama’s move on Israel divided his own Democratic Party, his action against Russia has pitched the Republicans against the incoming President, who could find himself cornered on the issue as soon as he steps into office.

“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions. In October, my Administration publicized our assessment that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the U.S. election process…. Moreover, our diplomats have experienced an unacceptable level of harassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year. Such activities have consequences,” Mr. Obama said, announcing the measures.

He said the alleged hacking of American computer networks by Russian agents would not have happened without approval from the “highest levels,” linking President Vladimir Putin to the controversy.

Mr. Trump, who has earlier rejected the findings of the U.S intelligence agencies, issued a short statement on Thursday evening. “It's time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation,” Mr. Trump said, without specifying what he was talking about.

Once in office, Mr. Trump — who has repeatedly called for improving relations with Russia — can overturn the measures but that will not be as easy as his plans for Israel. Republican Speaker of the U.S House of Representatives Paul Ryan said the steps were "an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia.” "Russia does not share America's interests," he said, accusing it of "sowing dangerous instability around the world."

Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said in a joint statement that they would lead “the effort in the new Congress to impose stronger sanctions on Russia.” “The retaliatory measures announced by the Obama Administration today are long overdue,” they said. Congressional leaders of both parties share the view that Russia is an enemy of America, a view that Mr. Trump wants to amend.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 6:17:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/Obama-acts-tough-against-Russia/article16963226.ece

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