WASHINGTON – Scathing criticism of President Obama’s decision to expel 35 Russian diplomats is pouring in, with the perhaps curious exception of the leaders of the Republican establishment.
A senior congressional staff member told WND, “What’s amazing to me is how the Obama administration is pursuing a scorched earth policy and attempting to destroy our international relationships across the spectrum from Russia to Israel on their way out the door.”
The aide noted the U.K. and Australia “are openly at odds with them.”
“It’s a mess – and what’s worse, it’s an unnecessary one,” the top staffer concluded.
Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., said Obama “seems intent on setting the world on fire the month before he leaves office.”
“First he betrays our ally Israel, and is now taking retaliatory action against Russia all within a week,” the congressman continued.
“And he’s doing this without any consultation with Congress, that has yet to see a promised report providing proof that Russia interfered in our election. So, why now?”
“Memo to the president: You lost,” editorialized the New York Post.
“In his waning days in the White House,” the paper continued, “President Obama is desperately trying to make his policies as permanent as possible by tying the hands of his successor,” by presenting President-elect Donald Trump “with a foreign-policy crisis immediately upon taking office.”
Even the left-leaning New York Times conceded Obama’s move “appeared intended to box in President-elect Trump, who will now have to decide whether to lift the sanctions on Russian intelligence agencies when he takes office next month.”
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blasted “Obama and his illiterate foreign policy team” as a group of “losers, angry and shallow-brained.”
She later delivered an even more blistering rebuke on Facebook, posting, “The most amazing thing is that, having not been able to write down into the history of the presidency any achievements on international arena, the Nobel Prize Laureate managed to put a fat blob instead of elegant dot.”
The tirade continued: “Today, America, American people were humiliated by their own President. Not by international terrorists or foreign enemy’s troops. It’s a curtain time. [The] ugly show is over, she continued.
Zakharova concluded, “And no enemy of the United States could have done worse damage.”
Despite the gravity of the situation, part of Russia’s initial response on Thursday displayed an irreverent sense of humor.
Referring to Obama’s three weeks left remaining in office, the Russian embassy in Britain tweeted a picture of a duck with the word LAME emblazoned across it.
The accompanying message also tweaked Obama, saying everybody, including the American people, “will be glad to see the last of this hapless” administration.
Obama announced his extraordinary decision to expel 35 Russian diplomats on Thursday in retaliation for what he claimed were cyber hacking attempts by their government aimed at the U.S. presidential election, even though he has presented no evidence that it happened.
The Russian government is sending a plane to pick up its expelled diplomats, after reports they were having trouble booking flights on late notice during the holiday season.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had promised to retaliate by expelling 35 American diplomats, saying “we cannot leave such acts unanswered. Reciprocity is part of diplomatic law.”
But, as WND reported, Russian President Vladimir Putin shocked the world on Friday morning by essentially shrugging off the incident, issuing a statement that announced he will not respond in kind and will not expel any American diplomats.
In fact, Putin instead invited “all children of US diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas children’s parties in the Kremlin.”
The strongest support of Obama’s retaliation, perhaps strangely, came from establishment Republican leaders in Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the sanctions “a good initial step, however late in coming.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., also combined praise with criticism, stating: “While today’s action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia. And it serves as a prime example of this administration’s ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world.”
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., issued a joint statement that read, “The retaliatory measures announced by the Obama administration today are long overdue.”
The duo also accepted as fact that the Russian tried to hack the presidential election, even though the administration has presented no evidence.
“But ultimately, they are a small price for Russia to pay for its brazen attack on American democracy,” they wrote. “We intend to lead the effort in the new Congress to impose stronger sanctions on Russia.”
President-elect Trump seemed to take it all in stride, issuing a statement that read,” “It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things.”
But he also said he would look into the allegation of Russian hacking, concluding, “Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation.”
Top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway expressed exasperation, telling CNN: “All we heard through the election was ‘Russia, Russia, Russia.’ Since the election, it’s just this fever pitch of accusations and insinuations.”
She added, “I will tell you that even those who are sympathetic to President Obama on most issues are saying that part of the reason he did this was to quote ‘box in’ President-elect Trump.”
She added, “That would be very unfortunate if politics were the motivating factor here. We can’t help but think that’s often true.”
Key Russians were less diplomatic.
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the International Committee of the Russian Upper House of Parliament, said, “Forgive me for being harsh, but I just cannot find other words: This is the agony of not the lame ducks, but of political corpses.”
Kosachev’s deputy, Alexei Chepa, called it “really a disturbing news” designed to create “difficulties for the [Trump] administration to overcome later.”
Chepa’s colleague, Vladimir Dzhabarov, accused Obama of annoying Russia “out of impotence.”
He said Obama “proved himself to be an arbitrary person who happened to lead the United States.”
“This is very unusual,” said Gevorg Mirzayan, a professor at Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, “because usually when one’s political opponents from another party arrive into the White House, the power is transferred with dignity.
“But instead of this, the current most important person, like a ‘mad printer,’ is creating laws and decrees with the goal to freeze the ‘foreign affairs revolution’ of the new administration. I believe that the personal antipathies of Obama, who believes ‘Putin beat him on all fronts—including the elections’ play a role here.”
Professor Alexander Domrin of the Russian High School of Economics said Obama is “setting as many traps as possible for Mr. Trump on [the] international field.”
That assertion was echoed by foreign ministry spokeswoman Zakharova, who charged, “The outgoing U.S. administration, in her last days, still hopes to ruin even more the relations with Russia, forgetting, probably, that these relations had already been brought down to the ground.”
The spokeswoman didn’t hold back, and, indicating the Russian government was fed up, stated: “They are once again trying to frighten us with the widening of anti-Russian sanctions, with measures of ‘diplomatic nature,’ and even with the sabotage of our computer systems. … Frankly, we are sick and tired of the outright lies about ‘Russian hackers’ that continue to pour down in the United States from the very top.”
Blaming politics, she continued: “The Obama administration launched this disinformation half a year ago in an attempt to support the position of their desired candidate for the November presidential elections. Having not achieved their desired outcome, now they are looking for the justification of their failure and, doubling their efforts, they are taking revenge on the Russian-American relations.”
Zakharova noted how American officials “tracked the hack that attacked his electronic vote-counting system soon after the elections.”
“The traces led to a computer address within the Department of Homeland Security of the United States. What else we can talk about here?About the fact that this [revelation] was covered with the flood of the new accusations that had not a single evidence?”
She concluded, “[The] Obama administration, probably, does not care what will happen with bilateral relations with Russia, but it is unlikely that history will forgive the attitude based on the principle ‘let there be even flood after we are gone.'”