Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to not retaliate against the United States for President Barack Obama's decision to expel 35 diplomats and close two compounds over hacking may prove to be a test for President-elect Donald Trump, experts say.
Will Trump reduce or rescind Obama's orders, as Moscow wants, after his inauguration next month, or will he risk angering Putin by keeping — if not strengthening — the sanctions?
"If Trump doesn't do what Putin wants, then we are where we are today — and, frankly, it's a place where I believe we haven't been firm enough with Russia," Evelyn Farkas, a former Obama administration Pentagon official, told Politico. "Putin will keep on going if he's not given a sense of his boundaries.
"It's just the way leaders like him operate."
But Matthew Rojansky, a Russia expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, said that Putin remained opened to escalating Russia-U.S. tensions with Trump in the White House.
"I would pay attention to what the Russian government is not saying," Rojanksy told Politico.
"They are not saying they won't expel any U.S. diplomats later, that they won't find ways to sanction and target U.S. intelligence officials, that they won't target U.S. diplomatic property in Russia, or that they won't retaliate against the unspecified measures mentioned in President Obama's statement yesterday."
President Obama on Thursday expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in response to the hacks.
The diplomats were declared persona non grata and were given 72 hours to leave the United States. The affected compounds were in Maryland and New York.
Putin responded Friday by saying that Moscow would not eject American diplomats in response to what he described as "provocation aimed at further undermining Russian-American relations."
Trump praised the Russian president's "great move" on Twitter.
The Obama administration declined to comment on Putin's action.
"We have nothing further to add," a State Department official told Politico.
Still, some Republicans remain unmoved by Putin's gesture.
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain of Arizona plans to hold a hearing next Thursday on cyber-threats and Russia — and he and fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have vowed to push for "stronger sanctions on Russia" next year.
Any such legislation would have to be signed by a President Trump, according to Politico.
Some Republicans still question whether Trump will truly challenge Putin.
"We really need to get past the politics of this, because if even a piece of what is alleged about this Russian activity is true, it is utterly unacceptable," former U.N. ambassador John Bolton told Fox News on Friday. "It is an attack on our constitutional system."
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.