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Moscow Claims U.S. Defense Bill Forcing 'Anti-Russian' Policy On Trump

  • RFE/RL

U.S. President Barack Obama

Russia has sharply criticized an annual defense spending bill signed by U.S. President Barack Obama last week, accusing him of seeking to undermine President-elect Donald Trump and forcing a "depraved anti-Russian" policy on him at the start of his term.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova lashed out in a statement on December 27, four days after Obama signed the wide-ranging $618.7 billion spending bill that was passed by the Republican-controlled Congress earlier in December.

"One gets the impression that...Obama's team is trying to place a land mine beneath the future Trump administration, hamper its conduct in the international arena, including -- in parallel with feverishly imposing new sanctions against us -- forcing a depraved anti-Russian course on it," she said.

The Russian statement said that portions of the law governing U.S. missile-defense plans were "aimed at demolishing nuclear parity with Russia" and achieving "unilateral advantages in this strategic area."

Zakharova also criticized the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a measure that was built into the defense bill and gives the U.S. president broader authority to impose sanctions on human rights abusers worldwide.

It is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a whistle-blowing Russian lawyer whose gruesome death in a Moscow jail in 2009 led to U.S. sanctions against Russians deemed by the United States to have been involved in his persecution or other rights abuses.

"The use of human rights as a pretext for pressure on inconvenient [foreign] governments is an old tradition in Washington's foreign policy," Zakharova said, claiming that the aim is "the spread of 'democracy, American-style' on the planet."

Trump, who takes office on January 20, has expressed a desire to improve relations with Russia, which have been severely strained by Moscow's aggression in Ukraine, its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian war, and evidence that hackers directed by the Russian government interfered in the U.S. election campaign, among other things.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also took aim at what it said was a section of the legislation allowing for the supply of weapons, including portable rocket launchers, to rebels fighting against Assad's forces.

"It is impossible for the Obama administration not to understand that such weapons will quickly end up in the hands of jihadists with whom the ostensibly 'moderate' opposition has long acted as one. It's possible that they are even counting on that happening," the statement said, adding that "this can be called nothing other than abetting terrorists."

It said that such weapons deliveries would pose a "direct threat" to Russian warplanes, military personnel, and diplomatic staff in Syria.

"For this reason, we see this as a hostile step," it said.

Zakharova said in the statement that "the Americans have rejected full-fledged cooperation with us in the fight against terrorists."

But U.S. officials have accused Russia of failing to follow through on previous cease-fire deals in Syria and say most of Russia's military operations in Syria have targeted rebels rather than the Islamic State (IS) extremists the United States is combating with its own air campaign.

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