Russians blame Trump's consulate closures on...Obama

Following the Trump administration's closure of Russia's consulates in the U.S., in retaliation for Russia's expulsion and firing of 700 U.S. consular employees there, Moscow had a curious response to the matter: it pinned the blame on President Obama.

According to state media organ RT News, citing Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov:

All of the "exchange of sanction moves" were initiated by the Obama administration to undermine relations and hinder the incoming president from changing the situation for the better, Lavrov said.

The recent sanctions against Russia imposed by the US in the beginning of the month were designed to undermine the Trump administration, according to the foreign minister, as Trump himself wants to normalize relations.

"[After the meeting of the Russian and US presidents] it has become clearer that President Trump is interested in normalization of relations with Russia, as he repeatedly stated after the meeting and most recently," Lavrov said, adding that Russia will retaliate against any actions that do damage to Russia.

Clearly, the Russians are reading two events as significant.  One is the Obama administration's "fit of pique" expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats at the tail-end of his term in December 2016, which was done in retaliation for Russian meddling, which he believed cost Hillary Clinton the presidency.  Two is President Trump's reluctant signature on a congressional package of Russia sanctions last month, which he was forced to sign because it came in with a veto-proof majority.  "The bill remains seriously flawed – particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch's authority to negotiate," Trump said.  He snarkily added that he appreciated Russia's diplomatic expulsions because it "saves on payroll."

So the takeaway here is that Russia still sees the Obama team as blaming Russia for Trump's presidency, and therefore as a nuisance, and the Deep State is seen as just as much an obstacle, while the Russians retain their original high hopes for a fresh start in Trump.

What might that mean?  Probably that the Russians will try to support Trump's ability to maneuver while continuing business as usual with the Deep State, which is to say Cold War spy games.  The enmity to Obama, however, seems to be something new.  They've always held the Obamatons in contempt, of course, but now they see them as the root of the problem.  They're probably too smart to get involved in political acts, now that everyone thinks they meddle.  But if any Obama types – are you reading this, John Podesta? – have business dealings in Russia, they can probably expect those to go south.

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