In one of his finals acts as President, Barack Obama has ordered the removal of 35 Russian diplomats and laid down sanctions against Russian intelligence officials. The expulsions confirm that the gulf between the countries has rarely been wider.
Obama who’s currently on vacation in Hawaii has said in a statement “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 behaviour,”
Whilst it is certainly within his remit to reverse the decision it is unclear whether President elect Donald Trump will do so. Though as he seems keen to stick it to the legacy of Obama, and mend relations with Russia, it is highly likely that this will be his course. The move is seen as largely symbolic, and is unheard of from an outgoing President.
Obama has spent the last days of his administration fighting international battles. It seems his lack of future in the job has strengthened his resolve to get his point across, and try to finish his bigger projects in time, so that they cannot be undone by Trump.
Trump on the other hand is significantly less likely to seek sanctions, as the election hacking aided his election to the White house. He’s also on significantly better terms with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He’s seen as the man who may be able to mend some fences along with the Russian leader.
The expulsion of the diplomats is a larger issue. It has long been known that US officials in Moscow are given a hard time. This is the first time that the Americans have responded in kind. Their access to two secure compounds has been revoked and have been given 72 hours to leave the US.
Russia has promised that there will be a retaliation for these acts. It is highly likely that Moscow will also expel American diplomats working in intelligence from the country. The increasing tensions between the two countries could hardly get much worse after a proxy war in Syria that appears to be coming towards an end. But the great hope is that a Donald Trump presidency may at least improve relations with Russia.
Joseph is a 34 year old freelance writer from London. He has a wide interest in politics and specialises in the subject. He's also a blog writer in his spare time.