Obama ‘put a time bomb under Russian-US ties’: Lavrov slams former president for worsening rift between nations
Foreign minister blamed the ex-leader for ‘Russophobic hysteria’ that triggered investigations into alleged Kremlin interference in last year’s election
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lashed out at former US president Barack Obama for planting a “time bomb” that has deepened the worst rift between the two powers since the cold war and frustrated cooperation in addressing global crises from Iran to North Korea.
In some of the harshest Russian language used against Obama, Lavrov blamed him personally for unleashing what he termed a “Russophobic hysteria” that has triggered a series of investigations into alleged Kremlin interference in the US campaign last year that resulted in President Donald Trump’s election.
“Russo-American relations aren’t suffering from the fact there are conflicts but because the previous administration acted in a small-minded and vindictive manner, putting this time bomb under Russian-US ties,” Lavrov told reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
“I didn’t expect this from a Nobel Peace Prize winner.”
Tensions are rising between Russia and the US after mounting pressure on Trump to reverse his campaign promises of better ties with Russia. The two countries are at loggerheads over the nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran and are on the verge of a clash over Syria where their allies are competing for territory. The US has also blocked a Russian UN peacekeeper plan for Ukraine after siding with the government in Kiev.
“International problems are suffering from the fact that Russia and the US can’t coordinate their actions because of unrelated issues,” said Lavrov, who criticised the current American administration for refusing to coordinate antiterrorism efforts in Syria.
The Russian foreign minister said earlier on Friday that Moscow had warned Washington that the efforts of US-backed forces to “make it difficult” for Syrian government troops to complete their campaign against Islamic State in a strategic border region “would not be tolerated”.
He condemned the use of threats against North Korea after Trump vowed this week to “totally destroy” the isolated state if it strikes at the US or an ally. And he said that the collapse of the Iranian nuclear agreement if the US walks away from it could prevent resolving the North Korean crisis because it would send a “wrong signal” to the regime in Pyongyang.
As a special prosecutor and congressional committees widen the scope of their probes into the finding by US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in an effort to hurt Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton – and ultimately to help elect Trump – Lavrov repeated Russian denials of involvement.
“There is a whole campaign about the legitimacy of President Trump’s election, saying that Russia ensured this election by meddling in US affairs and the election campaign, but we do not see any facts,” he said. Trump, too, has dismissed the inquiry into Russian meddling as a “witch hunt” intended to undermine him.
Facebook said this week that it will give Congress all the evidence it has on political advertising linked to Russian pre-election meddling. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller, who is looking into Trump’s ties to Russia, has asked the White House for documents related to his actions as president, including the firing of FBI Director James Comey, The New York Times reported.
Relations between Russia and the US soured in 2014 after the Russian annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Ukraine led to Western sanctions. Since Trump’s election, the stand-off has worsened in spite of the president’s vow to overcome the crisis in relations, with the two countries engaging in tit-for-tat measures targeting each other’s diplomatic missions.
The diplomatic sanctions and counter-sanctions followed a move by Obama soon before he stepped down to penalise Russia for the election meddling by expelling Russian diplomats and seizing two compounds.