The conventional wisdom of the intelligentsia on the right is that Obama (like all pathetic, weak Democrats) constantly brings plastic knives to fights settled by who has the most .50 caliber ammo when it comes to dealing with spycraft.
This dismal view of the outgoing president is particularly popular among right-wing former intel and military analyst types, folks like John Schindler, Tom Nichols, and Larry Johnson, all of whom think President Obama is either patently evil or incredibly stupid (or in the case of Johnson, both).
Either way, the general idea is that Putin is just too smart and too crafty for Obama to handle, and our president was never in the same league as ol' KGB Vlad, let alone the same international playing field.
But gosh, every now and again Obama goes and proves that even crafty Russian spies are very, very predictable when they get cocky, and that level of predictability can result in some truly masterful manipulation.
President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and sanctioned Russian intelligence officials who Washington believes were involved in hacking U.S. political groups in the 2016 presidential election.
The measures, taken during the last days of Obama's presidency, mark a new low in U.S.-Russian relations which have deteriorated over serious differences on Ukraine and Syria.
"These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior," Obama said in a statement from vacation in Hawaii.
It was not immediately clear whether President-elect Donald Trump, who has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and nominated people seen as friendly toward Moscow to senior administration posts, would seek to roll back the measures once he takes office on Jan. 20.
Obama is seeking to deter Russia and other foreign governments from leveraging cyber attacks in the future to meddle in U.S. politics, former officials and cyber security experts said.
Obama has been under growing pressure from within his own administration and lawmakers of both political parties to respond more forcefully to the cyber attacks, which included leaked emails of Democratic Party operatives that became part of the media coverage in the campaign for the Nov. 8 presidential election.
The Russian foreign ministry said on Thursday the sanctions were counter-productive and would harm the restoration of bilateral ties. Moscow denies the hacking allegation.
Obama sanctioned two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB, four GRU officers and three companies "that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.
We know who your players are Vlad. And Obama just openly burned dozens of Russian counter-intelligence agents as an impressive warning. Rather than keep an eye on these known agents in case misdirection came in handy, the president chose to clean house, giving them until January 1 to get out of the country for good. That's a strong move and one ol' Vlad was clearly not counting on.
Putin may have been playing games with Obama, but Obama just flipped the game board over and scattered the pieces. And the warning is clear: now the Russians have to ask themselves if the rest of their counter-intelligence assets in the US...or in other countries allied with the US...are similarly in danger of being burned. Does Vlad want to take the chance that somehow these are the only spies we know about?
But it's not just Putin who has to make some choices now, but Trump as well. Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan are calling this move "overdue" and hey, kicking Russian spies out of the country is something that actually gets bipartisan support even these days. Forget the fact that Ryan could have cared less about sacntions before today, but even Ryan's willing to sell out Trump over this. Does Trump really want to start sucking up to Vlad now as Obama lays down the hammer? Not even Trump is dumb enough to invite spies into the country. Or...is he?
Your move, Vlad, and happy new year.