“Cold War deja vu” as President Barack Obama expels 35 Russian diplomats

“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions.”

U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a bilateral meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia at the Esperanza Resort in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico, June 18, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

by: Obert Madondo |  | Published December 29, 2016, by The Canadian Progressive

Two weeks after promising to respond “at a time and place of our choosing” to Russia’s alleged interference in the recent U.S. presidential election, Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats. The sanctions also targeted the Russian Federal Intelligence Services (FSB) and GRU, Russia’s main military intelligence agency.

The Russian embassy in London smells “Cold War deja vu”:

The Obama administration blames Russia for hacking Democratic National Committee and personal e-mail account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairperson. The whistleblower website, WikiLeaks, published the embarrassing leaks. The media had a field day.

In a statement issued on the eve of the election, Julian Assange defended WikiLeaks’ publication of the DNC and Podesta leaks. He said: “The right to receive and impart true information is the guiding principle of WikiLeaks.”

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported:

American intelligence agencies have concluded with “high confidence” that Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances and promote Donald J. Trump, according to senior administration officials.

According to the Obama administration:

Russia’s cyber activities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in U.S. democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the U.S. government.

President-elect Trump has repeatedly dismissed the suggestion that his campaign got a little help from those meddling Russians. He’s insisted its time to move on and focus on making America great again.

Russia is unlikely to retaliate. Some analysts have suggested that Vladimir Putin is betting on improved relations with the U.S. in the Trump era.

The Obama statement below sort of confirms that the sanctions are also America’s response to “the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials”:

Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election. 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.

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. These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. 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. Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response.

I have issued an executive order that provides additional authority for responding to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine our election processes and institutions, or those of our allies or partners. Using this new authority, I have sanctioned nine entities and individuals: the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations. In addition, the Secretary of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information. The State Department is also shutting down two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes, and is declaring “persona non grata” 35 Russian intelligence operatives. Finally, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are releasing declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence service cyber activity, to help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.

These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities. We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized. In addition to holding Russia accountable for what it has done, the United States and friends and allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior, and interfere with democratic governance. To that end, my Administration will be providing a report to Congress in the coming days about Russia’s efforts to interfere in our election, as well as malicious cyber activity related to our election cycle in previous elections.

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Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter: @Obiemad