President Obama has rolled out a series of punitive actions against Russia today for having interfered with the United States election process, ranging from economic sanctions to the immediate expulsion of more than thirty Russian diplomats. This may seem like a mere symbolic response. But the increased sanctions will hit Russia hard, and could help motivate the Russians to think twice about allowing Vladimir Putin to remain in power. However, the expulsion of the diplomats could prove to be of greater short term impact, as it backs Donald Trump into a tricky corner.
Putin rigged the election in favor of Donald Trump because he presumably believed he could control him as a puppet. And that manipulation was most likely going to take place primarily through direct contact between the Russian diplomats in the United States and the Russian puppets in Donald Trump’s administration. These people can still get on the phone with each other. But with these diplomats having been ejected from the United States, it creates at least something of a barrier when it comes to the puppet strings. More importantly, it sets a trap for Trump if he tries to later invite these Russian diplomats back into the country.
If Donald Trump takes office and then quickly invites the expelled Russian diplomats to return to Washington DC, it’ll open the door for his detractors to accuse him of indeed being in bed with the Russians. Questions will be asked by Trump is allowing the Russians to return, when they haven’t done anything to merit such a return. And that ammunition will not only be handed to Trump’s detractors in the Democratic Party, but also to Republican Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
While President Obama is leaving office in a matter of weeks, McCain and Graham will remain in the Senate for several more years. And they’re not only endorsing Obama’s moves against Russia, they’re vowing to take things even further in the next session. And so not only has Obama backed Trump into a corner with these moves against Russia, he’s handed the top anti-Trump Republicans the ability to keep him pinned in that corner.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report