While U.S. President Barack Obama’s last speech after eight years in office was meant as a fond farewell to his supporters, his departure cannot come soon enough for Russia.
The already-strained relations between the Obama administration and the Kremlin have soured further in recent weeks, amid allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential elections. Obama’s administration has responded to the claims by expanding sanctions, expelling 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S.
Obama’s farewell speech centered on a message of unity for Americans, calling on them to keep faith in democratic institutions. But he hinted at the challenges posed by Islamist militants and “autocrats in foreign capitals.”
Meanwhile, officials in Moscow are counting down the days to Obama’s exit. On Tuesday night, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov reminded Russians that the U.S. leader has 10 days left in his term, but was cautious not to reach for the champagne just yet.
“It is clear that for the remaining 10 days of its existence, the Obama administration can ruffle quite a few feathers, in order to complicate the future work of those who will succeed it as much as possible,” Ryabkov told state news agency RIA Novosti. “Such behavior is just disgraceful.”
The ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharov, echoed Ryabkov’s statement in a Facebook post Wednesday.
“God created the world in seven days,” she said. “The Obama administration has two more than that to ruin it.” The Obama administration’s actions towards Russia, she added, are “all completely senseless, but harmful.”
Senator Igor Morozov, a former KGB agent, urged the Russian government to be patient over the coming days, citing the old Russian proverb “the dogs bark but the caravan keeps going,” RIA reported. In millennial parlance, this roughly translate as “haters gonna hate.”
His colleague, senator Franz Klintsevich, the deputy head of the defense and security committee, was more strident in his remarks. "In his farewell speech, Barack Obama not only said nothing new, he said nothing at all, unless we count claims about the greatness of the U.S., degrading the potential of other countries and defending his actions in the name of ‘spreading democracy’ globally,” Klintsevich said.
Speaking to state news agency Itar-Tass, Klintsevich blamed Obama for the rise of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and claimed “future generations will hold him to account for the present deplorable state of Russian-American relations.”
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to work with Russia, raising concern that this could come at the expense of Washington’s partner, Ukraine, as well as its NATO allies in Europe.