Too afraid to ask: What's going on with Russia?
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    Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

    Russia’s been slapped in the face, once again, with sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. Once again? Yes, back in 2015 when Russia decided to annex Crimea, the U.S. and the European Union responded not so favorably. The official response was economic and diplomatic sanctions on Russian officials, military personnel, and businesses. Restrictions came in the form of sanctions on major Russian state banks and corporations, as well as on the import and export of goods. These sanctions have had an intensely negative effect on Russian businesses and daily life for the average Russian citizen.

    Fast forward to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Throughout the election there were rumors of Russian meddling with official election business in attempts to aid the Trump campaign. In the last few weeks U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed that the Kremlin did, in fact, enable and authorize the hacking of sensitive information, which included the campaign strategies of multiple democrats.

    What are sanctions?

    Basically, a sanction is a threatened penalty or restriction for breaking a law. The sanctions imposed on Russia are both diplomatic [kicking Russian diplomats out of the U.S.] and economic [trade restrictions, etc.].

    Why is Russia being sanctioned?

    For hacking into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers.

    The Obama Administration received confirmation that back in 2015 and 2016, two state-sponsored Russian hackers broke into D.N.C. servers and released thousands of pages of documents on an internet site. Journalists and political bloggers were sent links to the classified information and reported it to the public.

    The publication of those documents led to several counterblasts against democrats in multiple house races, inducing multiple candidates, like Annette Taddeo of South Florida. It even lead to the resignation of D.N.C. Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, after documents revealed that D.N.C. officials conspired to cripple the campaign of Bernie Sanders.

    Dynamics between top members in the Clinton campaign were also leaked, revealing classified information to the public.

    What do the sanctions entail?

    1. All property in the U.S. including money, real estate, electronic property, etc. cannot be ”transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt” to the peoples and organizations highlighted by Obama. Those peoples and organizations include: the GRU and FSB (two Russian intelligence services), four officers in the GRU, and three companies that financially supported to the GRU in cyber- attacks.
    2. 35 Russian diplomats were kicked out of the U.S.
    3. Two compounds owned by the Russian government in Maryland and New York were shut down and Russians will no longer have access to them.

    Russia’s response

    Soon after Obama’s announcement, rumors began circulating that the Kremlin would be closing down international schools in Moscow and would deport U.S. diplomats in the country. However, it quickly became apparent that Putin would not retaliate against the sanctions and instead would wait until president-elect Trump takes office to take any action.

    Trump’s response (in tweet form)

    Response to Obama: Get over it. Four hours after Obama’s announcement of new sanctions, Trump said: “It’s time for our country to move onto bigger and better things.” However, Trump still has not held a formal press conference on the issue.

    Response to Putin: Good job. Praising Putin, Trump tweeted: “Great move on delay [by V. Putin] - I always knew he was very smart!"

    What does Obama’s action mean?

    Realistically, probably not much. These sanctions are more symbolic than anything else. The sanctions imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea hurt Russia pretty badly. The new post-election sanctions are not likely to have an effect on the lives of Russian intelligence officers or citizens.

    It’s likely that Obama took these actions for the following reasons: he had to do something and wants to send a message to Russia, and the global community, that the U.S. will not stand for this kind of meddling; Obama wants to spoil Trump’s future relations with the Senate and Congress in the case that he decides to remove the sanctions; and he wants to end his presidency on a strong note.

    Can Mr. Trump please stand up? The world is looking to the president-elect to see how he’ll handle the sanctions once he is sworn into office on Jan. 20. As of now, it appears that he wants to stay friends with Russia and slowly move past this controversy.

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