Obama, nudg­ing Trump, says he must ‘stand up’ to Rus­sia

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Josh Le­d­er­man and David Ris­ing The As­so­ci­ated Press

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama prod­ded Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day to take a tougher ap­proach to­ward Rus­sia, urg­ing the pres­i­dent-elect to “stand up” to Moscow when it vi­o­lates global norms. The Krem­lin ac­cused Obama of try­ing to lock in bad re­la­tions be­fore Trump takes of­fice.

In Europe for his last time as pres­i­dent, Obama said he doesn’t ex­pect Trump to mir­ror his own strat­egy on Rus­sia, and hopes his suc­ces­sor will work con­struc­tively with the su­per­power where ap­pro­pri­ate. Yet he in­sisted the U.S. mustn’t gloss over deep dis­agree­ments over Syria, Ukraine and ba­sic demo­cratic val­ues.

“My hope is that he does not sim­ply take a re­alpoli­tik ap­proach,” Obama said, using a Ger­man term for a for­eign pol­icy driven by ex­pe­di­ency. He said he hopes the busi­ness­man won’t cut deals with Rus­sia if it hurts other coun­tries or “just do what­ever is con­ve­nient at the time.”

Obama’s re­marks in a news con­fer­ence with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel marked his most ex­plicit at­tempt since the elec­tion to in­flu­ence the poli­cies Trump will pur­sue as pres­i­dent. Obama has pri­vately urged Trump not to oblit­er­ate the ef­forts of the last eight years, but in pub­lic he has tried to avoid box­ing in his suc­ces­sor.

Yet Trump’s un­ex­pected vic­tory has put Obama in the un­wel­come po­si­tion of hav­ing to re­as­sure for­eign lead­ers that Trump won’t fol­low through on alarm­ing po­si­tions he staked out in his cam­paign, such as the no­tion the U.S. might not de­fend its NATO al­lies. NATO mem­bers and other Euro­pean coun­tries are wor­ried that un­der Trump, the U.S. will stop try­ing to po­lice Rus­sia’s be­hav­ior the way it has un­der Obama.

Most con­cern­ing to U.S. al­lies are Trump’s ef­fu­sive com­ments about Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, one of the first world lead­ers he spoke to af­ter win­ning the elec­tion. The Krem­lin has said Putin and Trump agreed in that call to try to fully nor­mal­ize U.S.-Rus­sia re­la­tions, an alarm­ing prospect for Rus­sia’s neigh­bors who fear the U.S. will let sanc­tions on Moscow lapse and ac­qui­esce to Rus­sia’s be­hav­ior in Ukraine and Syria.

Putin for­eign pol­icy ad­viser Yuri Ushakov told Rus­sian news agen­cies that Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion was “do­ing every­thing it can to drive bi­lat­eral ties into such a dead­lock that would make it dif­fi­cult for a new team to get them out from, if it wishes to do so.”

The White House de­clined to com­ment on that ac­cu­sa­tion.

Ushakov also said that Trump’s call with Putin had re­vealed a “shared de­sire” to fight ter­ror­ism and col­lab­o­rate on Syria. Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­cuses Rus­sia of pro­long­ing Syria’s civil war by in­ter­ven­ing mil­i­tar­ily to prop up Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad.

Ger­many’s Merkel, for her part, said she was ap­proach­ing the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion with “an open mind” and was en­cour­aged that the pres­i­den­tial process in the U.S. was “work­ing smoothly” so far.

Obama’s clos­est part­ner on the world stage, Merkel has been in­stru­men­tal in Obama’s ef­forts to co­or­di­nate U.S. and Euro­pean ap­proaches to­ward Rus­sia, as well as other con­flicts in­clud­ing the Syria cri­sis and the fight against the Is­lamic State group. Thurs­day’s meet­ing was the last for Obama — who leaves of­fice in Jan­uary — and Merkel, who de­clined to say whether she plans to run for re-elec­tion.

As for the limit on U.S. pres­i­dents serv­ing two terms, Merkel said sim­ply, “It’s a tough rule: Eight years and that’s it.”

Obama, speak­ing broadly about his own suc­ces­sor, said he was “cau­tiously op­ti­mistic” about Trump. He said that “solemn re­spon­si­bil­i­ties” and “ex­tra­or­di­nary de­mands” of the pres­i­dency tend to de­mand a level of se­ri­ous­ness, im­ply­ing Trump might rein in some of the bel­li­cose state­ments of the cam­paign trail.

“If you’re not se­ri­ous about the job, then you prob­a­bly won’t be there very long be­cause it will ex­pose prob­lems,” Obama said.

With Obama leav­ing of­fice Jan. 20, the U.S. is step­ping up ef­forts to de­ter Rus­sia from using cyberattacks to med­dle in the United States.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, left, speaks dur­ing a press con­fer­ence af­ter a meet­ing with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, right, in the chan­cellery in Berlin on Thurs­day.

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