After Barack Obama announced on Thursday that his administration would impose harsh sanctions on Russia over its interference in the presidential election, including the banishment of 35 diplomats cum intelligence operatives, the Russian foreign minister advised responding in kind. Vladimir Putin, however, announced on Friday that he would not retaliate, and would instead wait to see what the incoming Trump administration’s policies are.
“While we reserve the right to take reciprocal measures, we’re not going to downgrade ourselves to the level of irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy,” Putin said, using what the New York Times glosses as a Russian idiom for unseemly bickering. “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 D. Trump.” From the Times:
Mr. Putin said he did not want to deprive children of access to a recreational area on an island in the Moscow River that his foreign minister had recommended closing. 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.
For decades, the Kremlin has held a series of parties for children in December and January. Tickets start around $82 and can be bought online. While they are usually limited to Russian children, Mr. Putin invited Americans.
In a statement on Thursday, Obama had said that Russia’s actions could only have been directed by “the highest levels” of the Russian government—essentially accusing Putin himself of coordinating the cyber attacks. By essentially ignoring the Obama administration’s punitive measures, however, Putin has defused a potentially explosive situation and allows the Trump administration to continue to pursue a warmer relationship with Russia than Obama did.
“Russia views these not as U.S. sanctions, but Obama sanctions,” Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, a Kremlin foreign-policy advisory group, told Bloomberg. “So he will go and we can both decide that we don’t bear any responsibility for the actions of a jackass.”