Donald Trump's team worry Barack Obama's Russia sanctions could 'box in' President-elect

Mr Putin shocked experts by deciding not to retaliate in kind

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Friday 30 December 2016 16:00
Trump's advisor suggests Obama's sanctions against Russia are to 'box in' the incoming President

A senior adviser to Donald Trump has suggested Barack Obama’s actions against Russia were motivated by a desire to “box in” his successor at the White House.

As the fall out from Mr Obama’s decision to deport 35 Russian diplomats over the alleged hacking during the election continued, it became clear Mr Trump had been handed a huge strategic headache even before he takes office.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin surprised many observers when he announced that he would not reciprocate by expelling US diplomats. Yet the RIA news agency quoted Mr Putin as saying he would consider the actions of the President-elect, when deciding on further steps in Russia-US relations.

Mr Trump’s only public response to Mr Obama’s actions has been to say that “it’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things”.

Yet Mr Trump will very quickly have to decide how to act. Does he continue with the sanctions and risk undermining his desire to build a new relationship with Russia, or does he lift them and leave himself open to criticism of being weak? Republicans on Capitol Hill favour sanctions against Russia.

On Thursday, The New York Times claimed that part of Mr Obama’s tactics had been to “box in” Mr Trump. Subsequently, a senior adviser to the President-elect said it would be “very unfortunate” if domestic politics were involved.

“I will tell you that even those who are sympathetic to President Obama on most issues are saying that part of the reason he did this today was to, quote, ‘box in’ President-elect Trump,” Kellyanne Conway told CNN.

“That would be very unfortunate if politics were the motivating factor here. We can't help but think that's often true.“

Ms Conway, who will advise Mr Trump in the White House, added: “That is not the way that peaceful exchanges work in this democracy.”

Trump Tower evacuated after security scare

She also claimed the focus on Russia’s potential involvement in Democratic Party hacking – something that has been alleged by the US intelligence community – was a distraction.

“All we heard through the election was ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’,” she said. “Since the election, it’s just this fever pitch of accusations and insinuations.”

She said that hacks targeting the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, did not cause the Democrats to lose as much as their failed campaign strategy.

“I don’t believe Vladimir Putin deterred her from competing in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan,” she said.

On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had proposed expelling 35 US diplomats after Mr Obama ordered the expulsions and sanctions on Thursday.

But Mr Putin said he would wait to see what steps Mr Trump takes after he assumes office on 20 January. He even invited the children of US diplomats to a party in the Kremlin.

“We will not expel anyone,” Mr Putin said in a statement. “While keeping the right for retaliatory measures, we will not descend to the level of the ‘kitchen’, irresponsible diplomacy.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in