President Obama struck back at Russia on Thursday for its efforts to influence the 2016 election, ejecting 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and imposing sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services.
The administration also penalized four top officers of one of those services, the powerful military intelligence unit known as the G.R.U. Intelligence agencies have concluded that the G.R.U. ordered the attacks on the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations, with the approval of the Kremlin, and ultimately enabled the publication of the emails it harvested.
We’re very glad to see President Obama taking decisive action to hold Vladimir Putin’s corrupt regime accountable for its unprecedented, outrageous pro-Trump meddling in our recent presidential election. We applaud these measures and would like to see further non-covert steps taken as well.
Courtesy of the National Security Council, here are some materials that offer additional context on the administration’s actions:
- Statement by the President
- Executive Order and Letter from the President
- White House Fact Sheet
- Department of State Actions in Response to Russian Harassment
- Treasury Sanctions Two Individuals for Malicious Cyber Enabled Activity
- Joint DHS, ODNI, FBI Statement on Russian Malicious Cyber Activity
- DHS and FBI – Joint Analysis Report (Grizzly Steppe – Russian Malicious Cyber Activity)
The original joint statement from the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on U.S. election security, from October 7, 2016, is also available here.
Putin’s regime, which has a stranglehold on the government of the Russian Federation, has responded rather predictably by vowing to retaliate… although Putin’s mouthpieces have hinted Putin will wait to decide how to respond until after Donald Trump is installed as President Obama’s successor.
Trump is the man Putin and his regime wanted in the White House, and now that they’re on the verge of getting what they wanted, they’re reduced to hurling insults at Barack Obama until they can see what kind of foreign policy posture the unpredictable and unprepared Trump will actually adopt.
As The New York Times editorial board says, these actions should have been ordered sooner, but better late than never. A further response is needed.
Mr. Obama should have retaliated against this treatment a long time ago; still, the expulsion adds to the severity of the American response and directly affects Russian citizens, whereas the travel bans and asset freezes imposed by the sanctions may not.
Russian intelligence officials rarely travel to the United States or stash their assets here. Sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine have been in place for two years, yet it is debatable how much effect they have had on Mr. Putin. There is thus a legitimate question about whether Mr. Obama’s penalties will be sufficient.
“The executive branch has acted, but it is imperative the legislative branch now pick up the ball and move it forward. Congressional sanctions can complement and strengthen these new executive sanctions,” said Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland.
Republicans Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who are no friends of the Kremlin, also said they will push for Congress to act once the 115th Congress convenes.