Lavrov Blames `Small-Minded' Obama for U.S.-Russia Divisions

  • Russian top diplomat says tensions hamper fixing global crises
  • Russia accuses U.S. of sabotaging anti-terror fight in Syria

Barack Obama at the Gates Foundation Inaugural Goalkeepers event in New York, on Sept. 20, 2017.

Photographer: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lashed out at former U.S. 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’s triggered a series of investigations into alleged Kremlin interference in the U.S. 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-U.S. ties,” Lavrov told reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday. “I didn’t expect this from a Nobel Peace Prize winner.”

Tensions are rising between Russia and the U.S. 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 U.S. has also blocked a Russian UN peacekeeper plan for Ukraine after siding with the government in Kiev.

Read More: A QuickTake Q&A explains the Trump-Russia Saga

“International problems are suffering from the fact that Russia and the U.S. can’t coordinate their actions because of unrelated issues,” said Lavrov, who criticized the current American administration for refusing to coordinate anti-terrorism efforts in Syria.

The Russian foreign minister said earlier on Friday that Moscow had warned Washington that the efforts of U.S.-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 Communist state if it strikes at the U.S. or an ally. And he said that the collapse of the Iranian nuclear agreement if the U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

Don’t See Facts

“There is a whole campaign about the legitimacy of President Trump’s election, saying that Russia ensured this election by meddling in U.S. 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 Inc. 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’s 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 U.S. soured in 2014 after the Russian annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Ukraine led to Western sanctions. Since Trump’s election, the standoff 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 shortly before he stepped down to penalize Russia for the election meddling by expelling Russian diplomats and seizing two compounds.

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