What Do The New Diplomatic Sanctions On Russia Mean?
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The United States today imposed sanctions against two Russian intelligence agencies, four Russian military intelligence officers and three Russian companies. President Obama signed an executive order citing them all for hacking - or, in the legalese of the order, for tampering with, altering or causing a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions.
The president also said that a report on the Russian hacking will go to Congress soon. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said this action was - and I quote - "overdue but an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia." The U.S. also expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S.
Will these sanctions have any effect? Well, joining us now is Ian Bremmer, who's president of the Eurasia Group, a political risk firm. Welcome to the program once again.
IAN BREMMER: Sure. Happy to be back with you.
SIEGEL: Do you suspect anyone in the Kremlin is rattled by this response to the hacking that Russia is accused of?
BREMMER: No, not particularly. I mean they certainly knew when they engaged in the hacking that this was going to be seen as a provocative move by the administration. They feel like the United States and the Obama administration has been disrespecting and coming after them on a host of issues, from missile defense and Ukraine and Syria and you name it, for years now. And also, they would say that the Americans de-legitimize Russia by supporting NGOs and making Putin look bad. So he's prepared to play ball back.
But let's be clear. What this - it's unprecedented the Russians have decided to hack American elections. It's unprecedented as well to see that the president-elect is saying we should get over it and not pay attention after the intelligence agencies in the U.S. have said that this has occurred.
And so what's really interesting is not the measures taken by the U.S. I mean we can get through this. It's how Trump is going to respond, especially in the context of Republicans in Congress that have broken with him pretty decisively on the issue.
SIEGEL: Yeah, well, U.S. intelligence agencies said today actually that the hacking was - and I'm quoting now - "part of a decade-long campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. and its citizens." When you hear that, to what end do you think? What's the Russian point - just to make mischief, to get back at the U.S.? Or is there some policy aim here?
BREMMER: I think the Russian effort was clearly - hacking, collecting intelligence is something that we do to each other, and we've thrown each other's diplomats out on many occasions historically, including after the Soviet Union fell. It's different to make that information public through WikiLeaks. And that's the issue that really suddenly had an impact on how Americans think about the election.
There are a lot of Americans out there that think that the election was illegitimate. The Russians played a role in that. And certainly the United States has decided in a small and very late way to respond. There's no question that - I mean you look at the broad array of Obama's foreign policies. Russia is the one that will go down as the largest failure.
SIEGEL: As you've said, all eyes now turn to President-elect Trump, who's been very dismissive of this entire issue. Can you imagine Trump next month removing sanctions that were imposed just a month before?
BREMMER: Well, it's hard to imagine him maintaining a tough line on Russia. How far he goes and how much he's willing to fight members of his own party - he certainly had no problem doing that in the campaign - we'll see. But this is going to be an extremely interesting issue.
Of course his designee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson - a very strong opponent of Russian sanctions before and now. Trump has been dismissive even after he won the Electoral College vote. So he had no political reason that he needed to do so.
You have to wonder why. I mean why has there been language from Trump that sounds like what the Russians say about Crimea and southeast Ukraine? Why did he and his people push the Republicans to take support for Ukrainian military out of their platform during the Republican National Convention? These are things that we don't really have the information that answers that question. There's clearly something going on with Trump's Putin relationship that isn't yet understood.
SIEGEL: Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, thanks for talking with us.
BREMMER: My pleasure.
SIEGEL: And late today, Donald Trump issued a statement about the sanctions. He said it's time for the country to move on, and he will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week to get updated on the facts of the situation.
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