Russia is accusing President Barack Obama of trying to create problems for President-elect Donald Trump by doing something that Russia does not like.
In a statement on Tuesday the newly emboldened clearly playing to the President-elect’s penchant for acting out of emotion and ego, Russian Foreign Ministry listed a number of objections to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), including the renewal of language related to Russian aggression in the Ukraine and the easing of restrictions on supplying weapons to Syrian rebels.
“Overall, it appears that the Authorization Act has been adopted by the outgoing Obama administration, which is hastily introducing new sanctions against Russia, to create problems for the incoming Trump administration and complicate its relations on the international stage, as well as to force it to adopt an anti-Russia policy,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in the statement.
“This policy has brought the current U.S. administration, which believed that Russia would bow to pressure, into a dead end. We hope the new administration will be more sagacious.”
Donald Trump has made much criticized overtures toward improving relations with Russia, including praising Russian president Vladimir Putin as a strong leader and dismissing intelligence assessments that Russia meddled in the election by hacking into Democratic Party organizations.
Despite Russia’s allegations, the NDAA, which Obama signed on Friday, is anything but controversial. In fact, it was passed through both houses of Congress by veto-proof majorities — meaning that it received bipartisan support from the heavily Republican controlled Congress.
And it contains what similar legislation has had in recent years — it prohibits military cooperation between the United States and Russia until Russia has “ceased its occupation of Ukrainian territory and its aggressive activities that threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.” The bill also authorizes $3.4 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative that will pay for troop and weapons deployments to Eastern Europe, among other steps which are meant to provide assurance to U.S. allies who are concerned about Russian aggression.
“It is unclear how Russia can threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of NATO member states, when it is our American partners and their allies who have enhanced their military activities, expanding the territory of the alliance and moving their military capabilities closer to Russian borders,” Zakharova continued. “It is not surprising that we have to take this into account when planning our military development.”
The one potentially controversial part of NDAA — which again, received heavy bipartisan support — contains a provision that sets conditions for the Pentagon to supply man-portable air defense systems (MANPADs) to Syrian rebels. Previous NDAAs have been silent on the issue. In fact, it has long been U.S. policy not to give MANPADs to rebels at all for fear of them falling into terrorists’ hands.
Zakharova said that supplying rebels with MANPADs “directly threatens” Russian air forces operating in Syria in support of President Assad, whose regime the U.S. has consistently opposed. “The Obama administration is bound to see that these weapons will soon find their way to the jihadists with whom the alleged ‘moderate opposition’ has been acting hand in glove,” she said. “This U.S. decision directly threatens the aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces, other Russian military personnel and the Russian Embassy in Syria, which has been shelled more than once. This is why we view this as a hostile decision.”
While Obama had a number of concerns regarding the NDAA, not necessarily related to Russia, but to the lack of appropriate funding and restrictions on the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, he signed it anyway because it authorizes important funding and programs he said in a statement on Friday.