Vladimir Putin, At Wit’s End With Washington, Opts For Poker Over Chess

Friday, August 4, 2017
By Paul Martin

by Robert Birdge via The Strategic Culture Foundation,
Aug 4, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a calculated bet that the embattled Trump administration will interpret his expulsion of hundreds of US diplomats from Russia as more of a friendly warning than an overtly hostile act.

As US lawmakers on the weekend sent to President Trump’s desk a bill that would make it virtually impossible for the US leader to revoke a new round of anti-Russia sanctions without congressional approval, Putin announced that 755 American diplomats «will have to leave Russia as a result of Washington’s own policies».

Speaking on Sunday, the Russian leader – clearly exasperated by the clinical bout of Russophobia that took possession of the American psyche long before a rich real estate developer named Donald Trump emerged on the scene – delivered a message loaded with both strength and regret when he said: «We’ve been waiting for quite a long time that maybe something would change for the better, we had hopes that the situation would change. But it looks like, it’s not going to change in the near future … I decided that it is time for us to show that we will not leave anything unanswered».

All things considered, Putin’s response was exceptional for its balance and restraint. Although 755 diplomats may sound like a small army, slashing the US side by that number gives Moscow and Washington exactly 455 civil servants each. That sounds not only fair, but logical.

At the same time, Putin announced the seizure of two US properties in Moscow – a warehouse and a riverside retreat nestled in a wooded area along the shores of the Moscow River. Once again, this maneuver is merely tit-for-tat on the part of the Russians, and lacks enough punch to inflict any mortal wound on US-Russia relations. That is, unless the Americans – who have until Sept. 1 to comply with the expulsion order – wish for it to.

Importantly, Putin’s expulsion order is not against the Trump administration. It is a well-timed response to a malicious move by ex-President Barack Obama, who, in the waning hours of his disastrous presidency, declared 35 Russian diplomats «persona non grata», while performing a land grab on Russian properties. He gave these officials and their families just 72 hours to leave the country – and right before New Year’s, the most popular Russian holiday.

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