It appears that President Obama engaged in an unprecedented abdication of American leadership in refusing to stand up to a resurgent Russia.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that President Obama and his administration knew prior to the 2016 election that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered his intelligence services to conduct an extensive influence campaign to swing the election to Donald Trump.
Intelligence poured into the Obama administration that Russian security services were interfering in the election. Yet, the White House took no substantive actions to discourage or deter Russian aggression. Sadly, that abdication of leadership reflected a repeating motif of the Obama administration’s stance toward Russia throughout its tenure.
Here are the most damning segments from the Post’s report:
“We sort of choked”: One senior official in the Obama administration struggled to justify the administration’s inaction in the face of the Russian attack on the American election. “I feel like we sort of choked,” he told the Post. Choking in the face of Russian aggression seems to be a theme of the Obama administration. When Putin ally Bashar al-Assad crossed Obama’s “red line” and used chemical weapons on his own people, Obama backed down. When Russia invaded Crimea and sparked a civil war in eastern Ukraine, Obama similarly did nothing of substance.
“Or else”: According to the report, Obama and Putin had a direct confrontation regarding the election hacking in Hangzhou, China. Obama apparently threatened Putin, telling him to stop the election interference “or else.” Obama officials argued that this confrontation deterred Putin from further interference, but their claims are questionable at best. Following their confrontation, U.S. intelligence services uncovered additional Russian actions to mess with election infrastructure in various states.
“Modest package”: Based on Obama’s previous feeble responses to Russian aggression, Putin must have bet that the U.S. president’s Hangzhou threats were inconsequential. His gamble paid off. Despite Russia’s continuing interference in the 2016 election, the Obama administration issued only a “modest package” of diplomatic sanctions. Members of his administration described the sanctions as “largely symbolic.” According to the report, his advisors presented options including “the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could ‘crater’ the Russian economy.” However, Obama opted for something more “modest,” once again backing down.
Fast-forwarding to the current administration occupying the White House, though, severe measures to deter and punish Russia still have not been enacted. Despite President Trump’s initial tough stance on the Putin-allied Assad regime, his White House has requested that Congress weaken a Russia sanctions bill.
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