Obama worked with the Russians

Obama still strikes back against Moscow

The outgoing president is escalating the conflict with Russia by imposing new sanctions for allegedly influencing the US election

Although it had already leaked through the media, there were doubts as to whether Barack Obama would live up to the announcement that he would go into direct confrontation with Russia before the end of his term in office (the White House allegedly wants to punish Russia for influencing the election). In doing so, he not only risks being responsible for an escalation of the conflict with Russia and instigating a cyber war, but he is also directly duping his successor in office Donald Trump, who wanted to initiate a different Russia policy and does not think much of the suspicions Putin influenced the presidential election.

So now Barack Obama was spreading his decision to respond with an executive order to "malicious cyber activity and harassment" with a whole range of measures. After repeated private and public warnings, this is a "necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm US interests in violation of established international norms of behavior".

The Americans, Obama said, should be "alarmed" by Russian activities. He repeats, without any evidence so far, that the emails were stolen on the orders of "the highest levels of the Russian government" and published via WikiLeaks. In addition, US diplomats experienced an unacceptable level of harassment from Russian security forces in the past year. "Certain cyber activities" were aimed at influencing or undermining electoral processes and institutions.

With the new powers that he had given himself through the presidential decree in an extension of an executive order from April 2016, the Russian secret services GRU and FSB, four officers of the GRU, the two alleged cybercriminals Russians Evgeniy Bogachev and Aleksey Belan and three companies dated Ministry of Finance imposed sanctions that would have supported the GRU's cyber activities. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs closes two Russian facilities allegedly used for intelligence activities and expels 35 Russian intelligence workers from the country. While the previous presidential decree had set the threshold quite high, the new Executive Order grants the possibility of imposing sanctions if only "information is dealt with, changed or misunderstanding is caused - with the purpose or the result, in the electoral process or -to intervene or undermine institutions ". This is specially tailored to the case and also extremely vague, which allows countermeasures to be approved even if there is mere suspicion.

The Ministry of Homeland Security and the FBI, but not the rest of the intelligence services, publish "technical clues" - no evidence - about Russian cyber activities in a Joint Analysis Report (JAR) in order to help identify the "global Russian campaign of malicious cyber activities, to discover and fend off ". Russian intelligence agencies have worked together to use computers around the world, making it difficult to trace the activities back to Russia. Malicious programs used by Russian intelligence services are disclosed in order to protect themselves from them, as are methods that Russian intelligence services normally operate.

The Congress should be informed about the Russian attempts to intervene in the election, it should also be exposed earlier activities to influence past elections. Obama announced further reactions, which will take place step by step, but not all of them will be made public.

The escalation is also met with approval in Republican circles. Paul Ryan, the spokesman for the House of Representatives, said Russia has always sought to undermine American interests and create "dangerous instability in the world". The reactions are "appropriate" to put an end to a policy towards Russia that has failed for 8 years. The Republican Senator Chuck Schumer also stood behind the sanctions: "We need to punch back & punch back hard."

The Kremlin reacted to Obama's actions as expected. Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said that countermeasures would be considered: "We think that such steps by a US administration that is still in office for three weeks would have two goals: Russian-US relations which are already at a low point, and obviously deal a blow to the foreign policy plans of the upcoming administration of the President-elect. "

Such measures by the US government are a "manifestation of an unpredictable and also aggressive foreign policy," he said. The decision was "unjustified and illegal under international law". You will react appropriately, but there is no need to rush. (Florian Rötzer)

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