In another drastic last-minute bridge-burning move, President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats suspected of spying and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence organizations.
“These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior,” Obama said in a statement from Hawaii, where he is on vacation.
US intelligence services claimed that Russia ordered cyber-attacks on Hillary Clinton’s campaign in order to influence American elections in favor of Republican candidate, Donald Trump.
State Department declared as “persona non grata” 35 Russian intelligence operatives and is closing two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland, putting sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB, four GRU officers and three companies that Obama said “provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.”
— Treasury Department (@USTreasury) December 29, 2016
“Such steps of the U.S. administration that has three weeks left to work are aimed at two things: to further harm Russian-American ties, which are at a low point as it is, as well as, obviously, deal a blow on the foreign policy plans of the incoming administration of the president-elect,” Dmitri S. Peskov, the spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin, told reporters.
Konstantin Kosachyov, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian Parliament, told Interfax news agency that “this is the agony not even of ‘lame ducks,’ but of ‘political corpses.’”
“It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” Trump said in a written response released four hours after the announcement. “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.”
Cyber-relations between Russia and the US have been deteriorating since October, when, on televised Meet the Press, outgoing Vice-Biden threatened that the Obama administration was considering a cyber-attack against Russia.
“We’re sending a message,” Biden warned. “We have the capacity to do it. It will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact.”