Even as news organizations like CNN announce that President Obama sanctions Russia, many are wondering whether Donald Trump – as soon as he takes up residence in the White House – couldn’t just issue an executive order rescinding Obama’s new Russia sanctions. While Trump could, in theory, do this, politically it might be a bit difficult.
Top Obama aide says Trump could reverse sanctions if he's willing to invite "large tranche of Russian intelligence agents" back into the US
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) December 29, 2016
Nature of Obama Sanctions
Russia involvement in the 2016 United States election process is considered by the Obama administration to be significant and to have involved cyber warfare activities. As a consequence, a range of sanctions was imposed against Russia.
Two major Russian compounds controlled by the Russians inside the United States will be closed following President Obama’s decision. In addition, the sanctions focus in on six Russians in particular and five Russian organizations. In total, the Obama sanctions Russia is facing will mean that 35 Russian diplomats will have to leave the country within 72 hours. According to the White House statement.
“Russia’s cyberactivities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in US democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the US government… These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Meaning of Persona Non Grata
The diplomats and other personnel being expelled from the United States under the Obama sanctions Russia just received have been declared “persona non grata.” According to NPR, persona non grata is a Latin/legal term meaning that these individuals are no longer welcome in the country in question.
He's confident Trump will enter White House, drop the sanctions, and generally do his bidding https://t.co/pDsplGjj1x
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) December 30, 2016
Under international law, diplomats have what is known as “diplomatic immunity,” which for the most part protects them from being prosecuted in the country they’re stationed in. However, if an individual has been declared persona non grata and fails to leave by the appointed date, that person can then be charged with a crime.
Trump Overruling Obama
The sanctions Russia is already facing, as well as these new ones President Obama has issued, may well be lifted by Donald Trump soon after he takes office as president of the United States. Trump has already made it clear that he does not believe the charges – made by United States intelligence agencies and the Obama administration – that Russia interfered with the election to tilt it in Trump’s favor.
Russia is already facing United States sanctions regarding its ongoing actions in a number of hotspots around the world, from the Ukraine to Syria. Will Trump remove these as well? Given Trump’s unusually close relationship with Vladimir Putin, it seems probable that Trump would at least try to remove such sanctions.
Support for Obama Sanctions
Russia may find that these sanctions will have more of a long-lasting impact than they expect if Trump can’t convince fellow Republicans it’s a good idea to get rid of them. Currently, many of the Republican leaders in the Senate and the House want even stronger sanctions against Russia than those President Obama imposed.
As reported by the Associated Press, Republican Senators McCain and Graham have both demanded investigations into alleged Russian hacking of the 2016 election. In addition, they seem to feel that the Obama sanctions Russia will now face are insufficient given the seriousness of interfering in the United States electoral process.
So, it is unlikely Trump will convince them we should get rid of current sanctions. Even over in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan also seems fully supportive of strong sanctions against Russia and Putin.
Ryan, GOP Senators: Sanctions against Russia overdue but appropriate. Trump will have to stop denying Russia hack. https://t.co/NgG8oprbr8
— Rafal Hill (@rafalhill) December 29, 2016
Given all of this, while Trump might very well want to rescind the Obama sanctions Russia has just received, for political reasons – and for the sake of appearance – he might not be able to do so. On the other hand, Donald Trump made it quite clear during the campaign that he cares very little about appearances.
[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]