President Obama took several steps to punish Russia for their alleged tampering in the 2016 election. Before leaving office, Obama blacklisted several Russians, maintained evidence of Russian hacking during the election, and forced the closure of two lavish estates used by Russian diplomats since the ’70s. The luxury estates in New York and Maryland were closed at the close of 2016 and their occupants were given 24 hours to leave the country.
Vladimir Putin opted not to retaliate against the United States at the time and surprised many with his patience — with alleged promises being made by Michael Flynn. But there could’ve been a good reason for this according to a report from The Washington Post. The Trump administration is working towards undoing Obama’s punishment and handing the compounds back to Russia, possibly as part of some sort of exchange. The initial plan involved the lift of a freeze against the U.S. in 2014 that halted the construction of a new U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg — retaliation for sanctions during the conflict in Ukraine. That alleged deal fell through shortly after according to The Post, but the work continues between the two nations:
Two days later, the U.S. position changed. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a meeting in Washington that the United States had dropped any linkage between the compounds and the consulate, according to several people with knowledge of the exchanges.
In Moscow on Wednesday, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov said Russia was “taking into account the difficult internal political situation for the current administration” but retained the option to reciprocate for what he called the “expropriation” of Russian property “if these steps are not somehow adjusted by the U.S. side,”
The administration is reportedly seeking certain restrictions against Russia if such a deal were to happen, including the removal of the diplomatic immunity that would keep law enforcement away from the premises. Still, the optics of such a deal would be odd given the current investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and its connections within the Trump administration.
Russia has called the seizure of the properties in Long Island and Maryland’s Eastern Shore as “an illegal violation of diplomatic treaties” and denounced Obama’s decision as a “hostile act” according to the post. This contention is reportedly one of the reasons they are unwilling to discuss a deal or exchange, despite using language indicating the Trump administration was far more willing to work with them.
(Via The Washington Post)