President Barack Obama has announced dramatic punishments against Russia for its alleged cyber espionage during the 2016 presidential election. The new measures include sanctions against several Russian individuals and entities as well as the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the United States.
On Dec. 29, the White House announced new retaliatory measures against both civilian and government members of Russia. The package of punishments are among the most aggressive measures taken by the United States against Russia in decades.
The White House released a statement asserting that the sanctions and expulsion of diplomats are responses to Russia's alleged hacking and disseminating of emails of both the Democratic National Committee and the campaign for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race, CNN reports.
"Russia's cyber activities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in U.S. democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the U.S. government," the statement read. "These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated."
The sanctions have been applied to Russian intelligence agencies GRU and the FSB, three private companies that reportedly aided GRU in conducting cyber espionage, and six individuals identified as main actors in the hacking. The names of the individuals have been released with the sanctions list, marking the first time that the United States has matched faces to Russia's alleged election meddling.
In addition, the Obama administration ordered 35 Russian diplomats and their families to leave the United States within 72 hours.
On Dec. 15, President Obama had signaled his intention to punish Russia for its alleged meddling in the U.S. election.
"I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections … we need to take action," Obama told NPR. "And we will -- at a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be."
The Russian embassy based in the United Kingdom responded to the retaliatory measures on social media, accusing Obama of stirring up Cold War tensions.
"President Obama expels 35 [Russian] diplomats in Cold War deja vu," the embassy tweeted out. "As everybody, incl [American] people, will be glad to see the last of this hapless Adm."
The House Speaker, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, released a statement backing President Obama's actions while also accusing the commander-in-chief's actions of being overdue.
"Russia does not share America's interests," Ryan said. "In fact, it has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability around the world. While today's action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia."
President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly dismissed the assessment in the U.S. intelligence community that Russia had intentionally hacked and leaked emails from the Democratic Party with the goal of helping him win the presidential election.
On Dec. 28, Trump told reporters that he did not view retaliation against Russia as necessary, stating "I think we ought to get on with our lives."
Shortly after the White House announced the new measures against Russia, the Obama administration released a joint report from the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Department of Homeland Security. The report detailed evidence that Russian intelligence services had hacked Democratic organizations throughout the presidential race, NPR reports.
"This activity by RIS is part of an ongoing campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens," the report stated. "These cyber operations have included spearphishing campaigns targeting government organizations, critical infrastructure entities, think tanks, universities, political organizations, and corporations leading to the theft of information."