Now he gets tough? President Obama’s actions against Russia — booting 35 suspected spies, closing two government compounds and sanctioning its intelligence agencies — are certainly deserved. As House Speaker Paul Ryan noted, they are “an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy” with Moscow. But, frankly, it’s a little too little, too late.
After all, kicking out spies should be par for the course. And the hacking, while troubling, was — let’s be honest — minor compared to the evils Russia committed with impunity during Obama’s tenure. Besides, the FBI first informed the Democratic National Committee over a year ago that its had been hacked.
And though a top administration aide met with Russian officials in April to complain about cyberattacks, the White House chose not to disclose them for months. You’ve certainly got to question Obama’s motives and timing. Consider, why was there no similarly appropriate response when Russia invaded Crimea, moved to destabilize Ukraine or supplied the missile that downed a Malaysian plane, killing 298? Or when China hacked the Office of Personnel Management, exposing the records of 22 million government employees? Yes, Obama eventually sanctioned some of Vladimir Putin’s oligarch friends.
But he nixed more forceful action, like resurrecting a plan for Eastern Europe and offering aid to Ukraine. Fact is, Obama’s indecision and failure to defend America’s allies spurred Putin to push the envelope in Europe and Syria. So what’s going on now? First, Obama hopes to bolster the absurd Democratic notion that Russia “stole” the election, undermining Donald Trump’s legitimacy.
He also may think his moves will commit Trump and leave him at odds with Russia, foiling the new president’s goal of smoothing ties. One problem: Putin’s not cooperating. He’s refusing reciprocal sanctions and saying he’ll seek a fresh start with Trump.
The new team must beware; Putin isn’t to be trusted. But let’s hold the applause for Obama. As deserved as his moves against Russia may be, his hands are far from clean.