Obama announces his last sanctions against Russia

Obama announces his last sanctions against Russia

US President Barack Obama administration announced its last measures against Russia on Thursday in retaliation for what US officials have characterized as interference in this fall’s presidential election, ordering the expulsion of Russian “intelligence operatives” and slapping new sanctions on state agencies and individuals suspected in the hacks of US computer systems.

The response, unveiled just weeks before President Obama leaves office, culminates months of internal debate over how to react to Russia’s election-year provocations. In recent months, the FBI and CIA have concluded that Russia intervened repeatedly in the 2016 election, leaking damaging information in an ­attempt to undermine the electoral process and help Donald Trump take the White House, the Washington Post reports.

Because this announcement is an executive action, it can be undone by the next administration. But Obama’s last-minute measures put pressure on Trump to make a decision about whether to keep the punitive measures in place.

The new measures include sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, three companies that are believed to have provided support for government cyber operations, and four Russian cyber officials. The two agencies named are the Russia’s military spy service (GRU) and the civilian spy agency FSB. The Treasury Department also designated two Russian hackers, Evgeny Bogachev and Aleksey Belan, for criminal cyber-activities involving U.S. firms and unrelated to the election hacks.

The administration has also ordered 35 Russian operatives to leave the United States and will shut down Russian-owned facilities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and on Long Island in New York believed to have been used for intelligence purposes.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that he cannot say now what the response will be, "although, as we know, there is no alternative here to the principle of reciprocity”. Peskov suggested that Putin might delay Russian payback over the sanctions until after Trump takes office, saying "there's no need to rush" the retaliation. 

A member of the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Olenchenko, speaking to Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that Donald Trump has all the possibilities in order to cancel these sanctions against Russia and those preceded them.

It is important that Obama's provocative sanctions have not been carried through the Congress and did not become the law. "It would be much worse if the sanctions were approved by the Senate or the House of Representatives - then we would have talked about the law, which can be reviewed only in the Congress, which can ignore the president's opinion. At the same time, we should understand that the sanctions cannot be undone overnight, but in general, it can be solved from a legal perspective," Vladimir Olenchenko assured.

It is necessary to make an amendment to the political momentum, the expert believes. "Trump is an experienced businessman and politician. If he starts his activities with the lifting of sanctions, then, of course, he will be accused of Russophilia. Therefore, the real cancellation will be preceded by a period of negotiation and the search for solutions. There are certain hopes that basic US policy toward Russia will be led by Henry Kissinger, an experienced practician in the field of political decision-making. I think that the US political machine's inertial motion will continue until the Washington office is reconstructed, it is about 6-9 months," the member of the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences concluded.