Charles P. Pierce on the sanctions for hacking and then what?
Well, the next 20-odd days are going to be interesting, anyway. Like the year itself, the president is playing right to the final whistle. On Thursday, he announced sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the presidential election just passed and, according to The Guardian, he wasn’t shy at all about stating his reasons why.
“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,” he said. “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.” Obama added: “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.”There should be no question any longer about whether or not the White House believes the Russians monkey-wrenched the election in order to put Donald Trump in the presidency. It plainly does, and now it’s telling Russia that there’s a price to be paid for enabling the onrushing catastrophe.
In Moscow a Putin spokesman said Russia regretted the new sanctions and would consider retaliatory measures. Diplomatic expulsions are normally met with exactly reciprocal action. In this case, however, Moscow may pause for thought. With Trump, who has spoken positively about Russia and president Vladimir Putin repeatedly, just three weeks away from the White House, the Russians may feel it is inadvisable to kick out 35 US diplomats. On Thursday, Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying the US move represented “the death throes of political corpses.” The Twitter feed of the Russian embassy in London, meanwhile, called the Obama administration “hapless” and attached a picture of a duck with the word “lame” emblazoned across it.
Who knew the Russian diplomatic corps had a daycare center? They were a lot grimmer when they were Communists.
The president’s actions also put the president-elect in an interesting place. Even El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago realizes that there’s a political price to be paid for being perceived to be Putin’s poodle. So, after he is sworn in, does he lift these sanctions, thereby removing all doubts on the subject? Chuck Schumer twisted this knife a little bit.
“I hope the incoming Trump administration, which has been far too close to Russia throughout the campaign and transition, won’t think for one second about weakening these new sanctions or our existing regime,” incoming Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “Both parties ought to be united in standing up to Russian interference in our elections, to their cyber attacks, their illegal annexation of Crimea and other extra-legal interventions.”
There’s no question that Trump is brazen enough not to care about the political fallout of lifting these sanctions as president. Hell, nothing he’s done so far has been enough to rattle his supporters. My advice: Watch the electric Twitter machine. Something’s coming.
We know that Moscow will respond in kind; they will expel diplomats and shut down American interests in Russia. It will make things tense for a while with dark predictions of the return to the Cold War, etc. We all remember that routine. But what’s scarier is when the response from Trump is the unpredictable one.