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Putin Once Again Proves He Is the Adult on the World Stage

Russia's refusal to retaliate against the US for the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats showcases Vladimir Putin's strength - and Obama's weakness

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

On December 29, 2016, the failed and lame-duck 44th President of the United States Barack Obama added one of the finishing touches to an 8 year legacy of duplicity, ineptitude and disgrace by lashing out like a spoilt child at 35 Russian diplomats and their families, expelling them from the United States. 

What made the act so absurd was that it was based purely on US domestic politics - the juvenile reaction of the Democratic Party and Neocon establishment to losing the election - and not on anything concrete the Russians did.

<figcaption>From a 2014 art exhibition in Moscow</figcaption>
From a 2014 art exhibition in Moscow

The US government alleged the 35 diplomats and 2 compounds they used as recreation facilities were involved in espionage, but also stated that action was retaliation for the totally unsubstantiated "Russia hacked the election" story being served up by mainstream media propagandists on behalf of the scared-shitless US intel establishment in imminent fear of impending Trumpification. 

How the expelled diplomats and their families, as well as the closed compounds, were supposed to be involved somehow in the alleged hacking, the White House did not make clear, nor I guess did it care to. 

Vladimir Putin however, in what has been hailed even by his haters as a masterstroke, declined to reciprocate Obama's move, overturning the suggestion of Foreign Minister Lavrov that Russia expel US diplomats in return. He issued a dignified official statement, at once conciliatory and magnanimous:

We regard the recent unfriendly steps taken by the outgoing US administration as provocative and aimed at further weakening the Russia-US relationship. This runs contrary to the fundamental interests of both the Russian and American people. Considering the global security responsibilities of Russia and the United States, this is also damaging to international relations as a whole.

As it proceeds from international practice, Russia has reasons to respond in kind. Although we have the right to retaliate, we will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration.

President-elect Trump praised Putin's wisdom, tweeting the following:

Putin then one-upped Obama in reverse, killing the US with kindness by extending an invitation to the children of US diplomats to celebrate Christmas at the Kremlin:

The diplomats who are returning to Russia will spend the New Year’s holidays with their families and friends. We will not create any problems for US diplomats. We will not expel anyone. We will not prevent their families and children from using their traditional leisure sites during the New Year’s holidays. Moreover, I invite all children of US diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas children’s parties in the Kremlin.

Prime Minister Medvedev and Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova were not so gracious. They bitterly slammed the Obama administration for its actions:

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was more outspoken in his criticism. "It is regrettable that the Obama administration, which started out by restoring our ties, is ending its term in an anti-Russia death throes. RIP," he wrote on his official Facebook page.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the Obama administration "a group of embittered and dimwitted foreign policy losers".

Putin's generous act of turning the other cheek, so to speak, is something hardly ever seen in international politics. It shocked everyone, probably even Putin's own foreign minister.

The ability to pardon an offense is a sign of power - and maturity. The need to provoke one is a sign of weakness. 

Of course, Putin surely also made the calculation that a Russian response would make a detente with Trump more difficult after he assumes office. Yet most other statesmen would have opted for the knee-jerk reciprocal response. 

In the bottom half of his third term as president, Vladimir Putin is in his prime. He has the prescience and poise to easily trounce all comers on the world stage. He stands taller than all of them. He has frustrated or stalled all of their designs in Ukraine, Syria, and against Russia itself. He has elevated his country to the role of world leader, and his popularity world wide is unsurpassed - even in Europe and the USA. 

Obama and his neocon puppeteers can go ahead with their childish and reckless games in their last days in the halls of power. The world need not be concerned about it. Thankfully, there is an adult in the room. 

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