Obama's finishing spurt. What do latest US sanctions mean?

Author : Yulia Kurnyshova

Source :

If Trump wishes to remove already imposed Obama's anti-Russian sanctions, he will have to give very convincing facts for this. In practice this would mean to go against intelligence agencies - not a very wise decision, especially if potentially he can be the next target of hacker attacks
20:45, 4 January 2017

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Obama Putin

The peculiarity of new 2017 year is that it begins not only with hope but also with considerable anxiety.

It seems that Ukraine in its relations with the outer world is coming to next defining moment. This was already in 2008 which was not only the beginning of the economic recession, but also the year when at the international arena, we were faced with obstacles to Euro-Atlantic integration, and the Bucharest NATO Summit became the symbol of our unfulfilled hopes.

In 2017 among the sources of anxiety appeared the result of the presidential elections in the United States.

The emergence of plans for reconciliation of USA and Russia, including by Kissinger, and later, the alleged "head wind" - by Pinchuk, was seriously stirred those who, despite all the red lights and signals, continues to believe that the US will defend Ukraine to the last.

Thus, preventing the consolidation of the former Soviet Union under the auspices of Russia is still present in the calculations of American strategists. But later the Obama administration contributed to the fact that Ukraine was pushed into the background. It was done by partially shifting the responsibility for the fate of Ukraine to Germany, France and the EU as a whole.

Related: Klimkin: Sanctions against Russia should be maintained until full de-occupation of Crimea

Trump, according to his statements, may bring the situation to the limit - namely close eyes on what will be done at the "backyard" of Russia.

Purely technically, the arrival of the new US administration - is always a chance to improve relations with Russia. For the reason that all US presidents - at least since the 1990s - at the end of their terms spoiled relations with Moscow.

The degree of improvement of these relations during the period of time of next administration is largely dependent on the presence of a "chemistry" between leaders. Donald Trump, as a candidate, did not conceal his readiness to cooperate with Russia on fighting terrorism and personally with Putin as a "strong leader."

After his victory, he gave a few serious reasons to judge about the future changes. His candidates for the post of Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson) and the National Security Adviser (Michael Flynn) are considered by many as too pro-Russian.

And that zeal with which Trump is trying to "justify" Russia of its involvement in hacking attacks during the election campaign in the US points on quite a serious internal political scandal, or, as US people traditionally say, "gate."

Hardly anyone in Ukraine missed this information because of New Year preparations, but anyway I remind you – on December 29 incumbent President Obama signed the sanctions against Russian GRU (Main Intelligence Department) and the FSB (Federal Security Service), a number of other organizations, and also announced the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the US and the closure of two "diplomatic cottages".

Related: US Senate prepares new anti-Russian sanctions

The event is extremely unusual, since the last decision on such a massive expulsion has been considered back in 2001, due to the loud espionage "Hanssen case."

It was the second significant Obama’s step to make the life of his successor more complicated.

After the United States made it possible to vote for resolution in the UN Security Council, which condemned Israeli actions, Trump wrote on Twitter: "Hold on, Israel, January 20 soon," referring to the date of his inauguration.

How much Trump believes that he can change everything - the system of alliances, balances and relationships in which US invested during the postwar period? Apparently, quite strongly, that once again shows that he is not only inexperienced politician but a worthless businessman.

Reconciling with Russia now – means he admits its status as almost equal to the US, while it is not equal at all. Russia today, with the exception of nuclear resource – is a weak country.

Moscow also sees Trump as politician who can bring it back to the club of elected – for example, to the G-7. But what would tell the other members of the club?

It is unlikely that they would be glad of how Putin will permanently discredit themselves with his presence, even if in 2017 many of those who "understand Putin" have a chance to come to power.

It’s impossible to replace all such people, and definitely those who can’t step over the principles will remain and within the EU it will foster additional split.

On the other hand, if Trump makes concessions, he will not receive Kremlin’s gratitude, but will only increase its appetite.

I wonder if Trump already on December 20 was the current president, what would be his reaction to the joint statement of Russia, Turkey and Iran to resolve situation in Syria, where other countries just "have an impact on the situation", should only join the statement?

Related: Trump's representative: Sanctions against Russia may be disproportionate

However, although 2016 showed that we should not reject most unexpected scenarios, I continue to believe in the power of the traditional institutions of the United States that will not let Trump be a petty tyrant.

And Obama's recent actions only strengthen this confidence.

At least because the new president certainly will not be able to "sweep under the carpet" the hacking scandal. Even if Trump really wants to forget about it – he will not be allowed to. Investigation of hacking attacks will be continued for sure, and Congress wants to hold hearings on the issue.

If Trump wishes to remove already imposed Obama's anti-Russian sanctions, he will have to give very convincing facts for this. In practice this would mean to go against intelligence agencies - not a very wise decision, especially if potentially he can be the next target of hacker attacks. It is worth recalling that in the history of Trump there are plenty of dark spots.

Besides, the current situation is fraught with conflict of Trump with Congress.

Some Congressmen have expressed fears of Russian interference in the election - Republican leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate called the Obama’s sanctions "a good start" and Senator John McCain said that the Congress will press for their expansion.

Problems are possible in the nearest circle of Trump. For example, the elected vice president Michael Pence is a real "hawk" and has repeatedly criticized Obama for that he allowed "a small and leader of Russia" to dictate the conditions to the United States.

Of course, much will depend on the amount of facts that will be decided to uncover.

There is a certain dilemma: if the number of collected evidence of Russian interference is too great what should USA to do next? Bring the situation to an open conflict with Russia?

Here we can recall an example from history: in 1961, Americans were well aware of Soviet preparations for the construction of a wall between East and West Berlin. Neither before nor after there weren’t any open countermeasures just because of the high risks of escalation.

And Trump's efforts to improve relations with Russia will lead to suspicion and caution in the United States. Accusations against Russia of trying to influence the outcome of presidential elections in the US will accompany Trump during all his term.

These charges would be mentioned every time he’ll try to reconcile with the Kremlin. It is also possible that it will result in quite undesirable for Trump impeachment.

Now everything depends on the weight of evidence about the Russia’s involvement in cybercrimes, and the ability of the FBI and the Internal Security Agency to give a convincing answer to the skeptics.

Related: After visit to Ukraine, US senators would demand severe sanctions against Russia

Related: Lindsey Graham announced new sanctions against Russia and Putin because of cyber attacks

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