sábado, 31 de dezembro de 2016

EU waits on Donald Trump for next Russian sanctions move / Donald Trump praises 'great move' by Vladimir Putin for not ordering tit-for-tat expulsions / Transition From Barack Obama to Donald Trump Turns Tense

EU waits on Donald Trump for next Russian sanctions move
The U.S. measures underscore European divisions.


Europe watched Barack Obama’s retaliatory steps against Russian election hacking with keen interest. But America’s closest allies are looking to his replacement for cues on their next move.

Donald Trump’s call on whether to keep the Obama-era sanctions against the Kremlin in place will most likely determine whether Europe hunkers down for a long fight with Moscow in cyberspace and elsewhere.

Obama’s decision on Thursday to expel 35 alleged intelligence officers and take other steps in response to cyber-meddling in the U.S. election comes at a time of deep divisions in Europe over policy toward Russia. There is growing pressure from countries such as Italy and Hungary to lift existing sanctions imposed over Russia’s actions in Ukraine. More hawkish nations, led by the U.K., France and Germany, want new penalties over Russia’s intervention in Syria. There is also fear that Russia will use the same disruptive techniques as it reportedly used in the U.S. to influence key 2017 elections in France and Germany.

Publicly, European leaders have largely kept quiet about the U.S. move. But officials and analysts say the real impact across the Atlantic will be felt after Inauguration Day. “For the EU, it depends on what Trump does,” said Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

If Trump cancels these new sanctions and rolls back those over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the EU will be pressed to follow suit. “The nightmare for European countries is to play bad cop to America’s good cop,” Leonard added. “If [Trump] recognizes the annexation of Crimea and starts to remove sanctions, it puts the EU in an intolerable position.”

EU leaders extended the bloc’s economic sanctions against Russia earlier this month until July 31 2017. In October, they shied away from imposing new sanctions over what British Prime Minister Theresa May called Russia’s “sickening atrocities” in Syria — despite a strong push from the U.K., France and Germany.

Trump has so far shown he cares little for the party line, so his position is unpredictable.
It’s as hard to remove as to add sanctions and the divisions among the EU countries favor the status quo. Barring an unexpected Russian military disengagement from the conflict in Ukraine, the only game changer would be an American move to drop sanctions, said Marek Wąsiński, an analyst at the Polish Institute for International Affairs. “If there is a lack of trans-Atlantic vision of how to respond to Russia, and if the United States withdraws from these plans, then Europe should be in the same position,” he said.

Obama quickly received support from senior U.S. Republican congressmen, who welcomed the sanctions as being “long overdue.” That makes it harder for Trump to undo the move, which would open him to charges of being a Kremlin ally. That said, Trump has so far shown he cares little for the party line, so his position is unpredictable.

Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to ingratiate himself with the next president, announcing on Friday that Moscow would not expel any American diplomats in response to the U.S. ejecting 35 Russian officials — or take other retaliatory actions until Trump takes office.

“Although we have reason to retaliate, we will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russia-U.S. relations based on the policies of the Trump administration,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

The looming cyber threat

The justification for the new U.S. sanctions is that Russia interfered in its elections — charges backed up in a report published Thursday by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, laying out the methods used by the Russian intelligence services.

A European diplomat said his foreign ministry had already passed the U.S. report to its intelligence services to analyze, but noted that it echoes cyberattacks in his own country, though not related to elections.

“We were more in favor, like other countries, of extending the existing sanctions” rather than strengthening or expanding them, the diplomat said, on condition of anonymity. “But if this report is technically substantiated … we can’t remain still.”

There is growing fear that the Kremlin is planning similar measures elsewhere in the EU in order to get back at some of its fiercest critics, the diplomat said.

“France permanently and with the greatest vigilance tracks anything that could affect its sovereignty and the regular democratic expression of it” — French foreign ministry statement issued Friday.
German government officials worry the Kremlin has set its sights on Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has condemned Russian actions in Syria and Ukraine, and who faces a probable September election.

The chief of Germany’s internal security service warned this month of attempts to influence the outcome of elections in his country, as did the head of France’s ANSSI cyber-security agency though without naming Russia, due to a strict French diplomatic tradition of not naming countries suspected of espionage.

“France permanently and with the greatest vigilance tracks anything that could affect its sovereignty and the regular democratic expression of it,” said a French foreign ministry statement issued Friday.

In November, France’s National Secretariat of Defense and National Security, a coordinating agency linked to the prime minister’s office, held a seminar to educate political parties, pollsters and companies that handle electronic voting about the risk of hacking.

And on Wednesday Sébastien Pietrasanta, a Socialist MP, sent a written question to the government expressing further concerns about the security of electronic voting devices, which are used in some communes in France.

“As we saw with the hacking of computers belonging to the Democratic Party in the United States, the possibility of an attack on these machines is not to be ruled out,” wrote Pietrasanta.

The Kremlin may have an interest in the election in France of a pro-Moscow candidate who could tip the balance of power in Europe toward lifting economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia.

The Conservative former Prime Minister François Fillon, who is currently leading the polls, is a forceful advocate for warmer relations with Russia, as well as the lifting of sanctions. He met with Putin after leaving office and is reported by French media to have personal ties with the Russian leader.

Center-left presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron also called this year for lifting Russian sanctions, and National Front chief Marine Le Pen is a vocal advocate for Russia. In 2014, her euroskeptic party accepted €11 million in loans from Russian-backed financial institutions, a transaction that some speculated may have been linked to her recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

While France’s position in Russia may change after the May election, a German shift is much less likely because Merkel is expected to win a fourth term as chancellor, analysts said.

A pro-Russian political shift in Western Europe could leave Central and Eastern Europe isolated.

“From the Polish position, there is no change when it comes to the situation in Ukraine,” said Wąsiński. “We cannot agree on canceling the sanctions.”


Sara Stefanini and Nicholas Vinocur
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 @AndrewBuncombe

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 enjoys 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 to US diplomats in the US to attend a New Year’s celebration at the Kremlin.

Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!
8:41 PM - 30 Dec 2016
26,436 26,436 Retweets 70,327 70,327 likes

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 (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 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.

Transition From Barack Obama to Donald Trump Turns Tense
After warm start, White House changeover gets messy as agendas collide
Updated Dec. 31, 2016 1:39 a.m. ET

President Barack Obama and his successor Donald Trump are making moves that tread on each other’s turf and complicate the other’s agenda, creating one of the messiest White House transitions in recent years.

Since Election Day, Mr. Obama has taken some of the most far-reaching actions of his eight-year presidency, leaving Mr. Trump to manage the fallout and narrowing his options once he takes office. He also plans a final major address the week before the inauguration that will reflect on his policy agenda, according to people familiar with the speech. The address could contrast his approach with Mr. Trump’s.

This week, Mr. Obama slapped Russia with a series of sanctions and diplomatic censures in response to a U.S. intelligence assessment that Moscow used cyberattacks to try to interfere with the presidential election. Last week Mr. Obama broke with decades of U.S. policy and let pass a United Nations resolution condemning Israel for building settlements.

As he prepares to take office Jan. 20, Mr. Trump has made countermoves. His team talked to Israeli officials about derailing the U.N. vote and he used social media to try to sway the outcome, calling on Mr. Obama to use U.S. veto power to reject the resolution.
Trump’s Plan to Partner With Russia Faces New Hurdle
A central promise of Trump’s foreign policy is that he will forge a working partnership with Russia, turning an adversary into an ally in global threats that bedeviled President Obama.

Mr. Trump has made clear he doesn’t believe punitive sanctions against Russia are needed, and he has questioned the evidence of Moscow’s meddling. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he would hold off on taking retaliatory action and wait to see how relations take shape in a Trump administration. Mr. Trump commended the decision in a tweet Friday: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”

Past transitions played out with far less conflict on core national issues.

The 2000 transition was abbreviated because of the recount in Florida. Incoming officials in George W. Bush’s White House said they enjoyed the luxury of building an administration behind the scenes, with much of the press and public focused on ballot counts in Florida precincts.

Once the Bush team moved into the White House, they accused President Bill Clinton’s aides of vandalizing in prank fashion some office equipment—including removing the ‘W’ from some typewriters— but the two teams didn’t contradict each other’s final and first acts.

The Bush-Obama transition in 2008 is viewed as among the most seamless. After he won the election, Mr. Obama sought to steer clear of commenting publicly on the financial crisis and steep job losses that consumed Mr. Bush’s final months in office. In the weeks before his inauguration, Mr. Obama repeatedly said the nation has only “one president at time,” and he praised his predecessor in his inaugural address.

Watching from the White House in recent days, Mr. Obama’s team has made plain it would like Mr. Trump to wait his turn.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, said recently that the president and his aides “believe that it’s important that there’s a principle here that the world understands who is speaking on behalf of the United States until Jan. 20 and who is speaking on behalf of the United States after Jan. 20.”

Confusion is evident in some foreign capitals.

At a government news conference in Berlin this week, the German foreign ministry spokesman took a question about a tweet from Mr. Trump saying the U.S. should “expand its nuclear capability.”

“We cannot conclude how policy will look after Jan. 20 based on half a tweet and a comment,” the spokesman, Sebastian Fischer, said. “It is good state practice always to have only one president at a time.”

The transition started out on an auspicious note. Two days after the election Messrs. Obama and Trump met in the Oval Office for 90 minutes—longer than Mr. Trump planned. They have been talking by phone about weekly ever since.

But beneath the cordial conversations are serious policy disputes. Mr. Trump wants to repeal the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s domestic legacy: the health-care overhaul aimed at insuring the millions of Americans who lacked coverage.

Next week Mr. Obama will head to Capitol Hill to meet with Democrats to discuss ways they can try to preserve the Affordable Care Act, with hopes of stiffening their resolve in the face of Mr. Trump’s efforts to roll back the health law.

Mr. Obama has been taking other steps that could potentially circumscribe Mr. Trump’s action once in office.

Last week, the Obama administration said it would indefinitely block drilling in broad swaths of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, an attempt to cement his environmental legacy and potentially stymie a move by the incoming Trump administration to expand drilling.

Mr. Trump seemed to be making reference to these moves when he tweeted Wednesday that he was “doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks.”

“Thought it was going to be a smooth transition - NOT!” he added.

Kellyanne Conway, an incoming senior adviser to Mr. Trump, told Fox News on Thursday: “I hope this isn’t motivated by politics even a little bit.”

She added: “We do wonder about the rush to do all of these things in the next couple of weeks by the Obama administration and how that may upend longstanding U.S. policy, as it seems to be.”

White House officials stress that while there are policy differences between the president and president-elect, that is are separate from the logistical preparations for the transition, of power which Mr. Obama has pushed his aides to ensure is seamless.

Part of what is motivating Mr. Obama, White House aides say, is a desire to lock in pieces of his legacy. He had been considering taking a stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the U.N. long before Mr. Trump’s election victory, White House officials said.

With respect to Russia, he became convinced the nation meddled in the election in ways that pose a genuine threat to the country and can’t go unpunished.

White House aides talk of “nailing down the furniture” so that policy goals that Mr. Obama methodically pursued can’t be undone once Mr. Trump takes power. The president, when he took office eight years ago, did just that to his predecessor, Mr. Bush.

—Anton Troianovski contributed to this article.

Write to Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com and Carol E. Lee at carol.lee@wsj.com

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