Michael Weiss reports: In the last news conference of his administration two weeks ago U.S. President Barack Obama said that he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin to refrain from any further hacking of the U.S. election. In Obama’s words, he told Putin to “cut it out” during a tense tête-à-tête at a summit in China just weeks before the national vote that saw a prominent Putin-flatterer win the White House. Obama intimated that the hacking was also done with Putin’s express permission, if not indeed ordered by him personally. The goal of the digital tradecraft, the CIA and the FBI now agree, was to further the election of Donald Trump.
Whether the former KGB spy accused by the British government of “probably” approving the murderous irradiation of a Russian dissident at a central London hotel was impressed by “cut it out” remains unclear. But intensified sanctions may be a very different matter. And the stage is now set in the United States for a potential showdown between the Republican controlled Congress and the new Putin-apologist Republican president.
On Thursday, Obama announced that by executive order he has sanctioned nine entities and individuals over the Russian government’s alleged cyber-espionage against the Democratic Party in general and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in particular. He has also given 35 unnamed Russian intelligence operatives 72 hours to leave the United States, and has ordered restricted access to two Russian-government-run compounds, one in Long Island, the other in Maryland.
The Obama administration sanctioned both Russia’s domestic and military intelligence services, the FSB and GRU, respectively, on Thursday. The U.S. also targeted four top-ranking officials of the latter organization, including its current chief, Igor Valentinovich Korobov, and three of his subordinates — Sergey Aleksandrovich Gizunov, Igor Olegovich Kostyukov, and Vladimir Stepanovich Alekseyev. None of these men is known to be a frequent or even occasional traveler to the United States, however, and so the punishment is largely symbolic. [Continue reading…]