Donald Trump praises 'great move' by Vladimir Putin for not ordering tit-for-tat expulsions

Mr Trump has again used Twitter to conduct his political outreach

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Friday 30 December 2016 20:55 GMT
(Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump has praised Vladimir Putin for not ordering tit-for-tat expulsions following the decision by Barack Obama to oust 35 Russian diplomats.

In a move that will likely lead to the President-elect’s critics claiming he appears more loyal to the Russian leader than the US president, Mr Trump said it was a “great move” by the Kremlin.

A day after Mr Obama ordered the expulsion of the Russian envoys and the closing of two compounds used by the diplomats, Mr Putin surprised many observers by not reciprocating in kind. In a clever piece of political chess, he said Russia would not lower itself to the level of “kitchen” diplomacy”. He even invited the children of US diplomats in Russia to attend a New Year’s celebration at the Kremlin.

Mr Putin also made clear that he could order further responses depending on what steps Mr Trump takes when he assumes the US presidency on January 20. On Thursday, Mr Trump had issued a statement saying that the American people needed to move on to more important issues.

On Friday, after Mr Putin played his hand, Mr Trump said on Twitter that he thought the Russian leader’s decision was a “great move”. He added: “I always knew he was very smart!.”

During the election campaign, Mr Trump repeatedly praised Mr Putin’s leadership, an issue on which he stood in sharp contrast to his Republican colleagues. He also said he was ready to begin a new relationship with Russia, after eight years under Mr Obama during which things have become very strained.

Trump's advisor suggests Obama's sanctions against Russia are to 'box in' the incoming President

Yet Mr Trump stoked the greatest controversy over the issue of Russia’s alleged hacking of emails belonging to Hillary Clinton’s top adviser and members of the Democratic National Committee. Firstly, Mr Trump encouraged Russia to hack Ms Clinton and find her “missing emails”.

US intelligence has since said it believed Russia was behind the hacking of the emails, which were subsequently passed to Wikileaks, and similar sights. Many reports say a consensus among the intelligence community is that Russia was seeking to influence the election in favour of Mr Trump.

Mr Trump has rejected the findings and said agencies such as the CIA cannot be trusted given that they were wrong over their claims over Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Obama ordered the closure of compounds in Maryland and New York
Mr Obama ordered the closure of compounds in Maryland and New York (AP)

On Friday, the US authorities took possession of two “luxurious retreats” used by Russian diplomats to swim, sail and relax, a day after Barack Obama announced sanctions in in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged interference in the presidential election.

The Associated Press said that shortly before noon, caravans of diplomatic vehicles departed both Russian compounds under the watch of US State Department agents.

It said the 45-acre Maryland location included a brick mansion along the Corsica River in the Eastern Shore region. Reports indicate it was bought by the Soviet Union in 1972 and served as a getaway for its diplomats in nearby Washington.

Meanwhile, in New York, Russian diplomatic staff were similarly evicted from a mansion on Long Island’s Gold Coast. The estate, once called Elmcroft, is in the town of Oyster Bay and was purchased by the Soviets in 1952.

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