Friday, December 30, 2016

Putin Won't Retaliate

Putin is pretty canny, actually.

He knows Obama's blowing steam. He knows he's spewing his bile not so much against Moscow, but against Donald Trump's victory itself. Putin's shrewd that way. He's waiting until O's out of office, expecting Trump to rescind the order and allow Russian diplomats back in.

That's what's going to happen. I mean, who doesn't think so?

At NYT, "Vladimir Putin Won't Expel U.S. Diplomats as Russian Foreign Minister Urged":

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia announced Friday that he would not retaliate against President Obama’s decision to expel Russian diplomats and impose new sanctions — only hours after his foreign minister recommended doing just that.

Mr. Putin, betting on improved relations with the next American president, said he would not eject 35 diplomats or close any diplomatic facilities, rejecting a tit-for-tat response to the actions taken on Thursday by the Obama administration.

The switch was remarkable, given that Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, had just recommended the retaliation in remarks broadcast live on national television. He called for punitive measures mirroring the ones imposed by the Obama administration, which accuses Russia of intimidating American diplomats and hacking institutions like the Democratic National Committee to influence the 2016 election.

The two countries have a long history of reciprocal expulsions, and Russian officials had been threatening to retaliate for days. Then Mr. Putin abruptly changed course.

“While we reserve the right to take reciprocal measures, we’re not going to downgrade ourselves to the level of irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy,” Mr. Putin said, using a common Russian idiom for quarrelsome and unseemly acts. “In our future steps on the way toward the restoration of Russia-United States relations, we will proceed from the policy pursued by the administration” of Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Putin has a flair for smart, unexpected tactics, and his announcement on Friday appeared to be in keeping with that. To some observers, the sudden shift seemed carefully stage-managed, a way of building up suspense before Mr. Putin’s surprise announcement, helping portray him as a wise leader above the fray.

Mr. Putin even said he did not want to close a wooded picnic area on a Moscow River island used by diplomats because he did not want to deprive their children. Then he went one step further, inviting all children of American diplomats accredited in Russia to celebrate the New Year and the Russian Orthodox Christmas with him at the Kremlin.

“Putin showed that he is above his own officials, that he doesn’t want to take the retaliatory action suggested by his foreign minister,” said Vladimir Frolov, an international relations analyst and columnist. “This is an attempt to show that he is a figure not just of worldly scale, but of planetary.”

Should Mr. Putin have chosen to retaliate harshly against the United States, he would most likely have deepened the rift between the two countries and left President-elect Trump with a nettlesome diplomatic standoff from the moment he arrived in the Oval Office.

But by choosing essentially to disregard Mr. Obama’s punitive measures, Mr. Putin can try to disarm his American critics, including members of Congress who consider him an aggressive foe of the United States. That could give Mr. Trump more room to pursue the closer cooperation with Russia that he has advocated.

Despite all of the statements from senior officials about the need to respect “reciprocity,” Mr. Putin essentially warned Washington that he was waiting for the Trump administration...
Shrewd, like I said. He's making Obama look like a petulant child.

Still more.