President-elect Donald Trump is just 20 days away from taking the presidential oath to become the 45th president of the United States and Americans in both political parties are questioning how he will respond to Russia after President Barack Obama placed additional sanctions on Russia last week for cyber attacks against political groups during the U.S. election season and past harassment of U.S. officials in Moscow.
Under the latest round of sanctions, President Obama sanctioned Russian intelligence agencies and expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S. after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded the Russian hackers were authorized by the Russian government.
Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to retaliate against the U.S. for the sanctions and decided to not expel U.S. diplomats from Moscow.
A Kremlin spokesman said that Russia looks forward to working with a new Trump administration.
Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for not retaliating against the U.S. and tweeted, “I always knew he was very smart!”
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2016
Trump has dismissed past reports from U.S. intelligence agencies claiming Russian hackers meddled in the U.S. election and is reluctant to receive intelligence briefings like other presidents have done in the past leading up to their inaugurations.
Later this next week, Trump will meet with the leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies which comes as Trump’s pro-Russian stance puts him squarely at odds with the intelligence heads that are alarmed Russia attempted to undermine the U.S. democratic process during an election season.
Besides feeling pain from the precipitous decline in oil revenues due to falling crude oil prices over the past 2 years, Russia is feeling the sting of broader economic sanctions from the U.S., the E.U., and other countries for its past military intervention in Ukraine which began in February 2014 and culminated in Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
Those economic sanctions are more serious in terms of their overall scope and remain intact until Russia fulfills its obligations with the Minsk II agreement which is aimed at deescalating the conflict in the Donbass region of southern Ukraine where Russia has been accused of supporting pro- Russian separatists.
In October 2015 a Dutch safety board concluded that the July 2014 crash of Malaysian Flight 17 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine with 283 passengers and 15 crew members aboard occurred during the war in the Donbass region was downed by a Buk surface to air missile, launched from a pro-Russian separatist controlled area and the missile system was transferred from Russia on the day of the crash.
Russia remains Syria’s strongest supporter and provides much needed military support to Syrian President Bashar al- Assad whose mostly Alawite government in Damascus is accused of using chemical weapons on civilian populations in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is a former KGB agent who has spoken about rekindling Russia’s “sphere of influence” and holds nostalgic views about Russia’s former glory and strength when it was the Soviet Union.
Putin has received international condemnation for his crackdown on anti-Putin journalists operating inside Russia and for not supporting free speech.
Putin’s newest supporter, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, is known for his antipathy towards the press and used his own election rallies to insult and deride journalists for being “dishonest” which comes as he spread a false conspiracy theory on Twitter based on false news that claimed he won the popular vote if you deduct millions of votes from undocumented residents.
That tweet occurred after President-elect Trump realized that he had lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by a significant margin.
Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton by 2.8 million, the largest margin in U.S. history during an election.
There is no truth behind the claim about millions of people voting illegally in the U.S. election. It has been widely debunked.
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016
Trump came out in support of the U.K.’s Brexit from the European Union and also questioned if the U.S. should come to the defense of NATO countries that pay less of their 2 percent of GDP for the military budget.
As a populist candidate who has managed to ruffle feathers in both political parties, Trump’s pro-Russian and rapprochement views towards Moscow have come under the purview of hawkish members in Congress, including members in his own Republican party, such as Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) who released a joint statement on December 29th along with Senator Lindsey Graham (R- South Carolina) that states they intend to lead the effort in Congress to impose stronger sanctions on Russia for attacking American democracy during the elections.
Senator McCain met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko yesterday and pledged his support for Ukraine, a non-NATO country, that has faced past aggression from Russia over the past 2 years.
Senator McCain also met with Ukrainian troops along the Russian-Ukrainian border.