Congress Republicans to step up pressure on Obama to toughen Russia policy - analyst

The Republicans who have gained control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the U.S. Congress following the latest elections are likely to put pressure on a politically weakened President Barack Obama to toughen policy in relation to Russia and resolving the issue of weapons for Ukraine, says Alexei Makarkin, First Vice President of the Center for Political Technologies.

The Republicans who have gained control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the U.S. Congress following the latest elections are likely to put pressure on a politically weakened President Barack Obama to toughen policy in relation to Russia and resolving the issue of weapons for Ukraine, says Alexei Makarkin, First Vice President of the Center for Political Technologies.

"The domination of the Republicans in Congress will have a bad effect on the stance of Obama, who has in fact become a lame duck already now. The problems of the incumbent chief of the U.S. administration are not only that the Republican Party members are dominating now but also that the Democratic candidates were trying to distance themselves from Obama as much as possible during the elections, stressing that they were on their own and the president was on his own," Makarkin told Interfax on Wednesday.

Obama has been weakened so much politically that he is no longer capable of opposing pressure from the Republicans, which will follow, especially with regard to foreign policy, Makarkin said. "Foreign policy and security are a hobbyhorse for the Republicans. And they are likely to step up criticism of Obama for an insufficiently tough course in relation to Russia. True, the incumbent president has worsened relations with Moscow, and any talk about the reset became irrelevant long ago. Obama does favor sanctions in an attempt to weaken Russia economically, but nevertheless, he is trying not to drive the things to extremes, into which the Republicans will now be pushing him more actively," he said.

"The resolution of the issue of arms supplies to Ukraine may be such an extreme. And the Republicans are already getting key offices of chairmen of Senate committees, including those on Foreign Relations and on the Armed Services. They will certainly be more active in promoting initiatives on supporting the Ukrainian authorities. And it would be more difficult for Obama to maneuver here. There will be pressure on Obama, and he will have to give in to this pressure somewhere. He has nobody to lean on anymore," he said.

The dramatic weakening of Obama's clout may prompt former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to start consolidating the Democrats around herself so as to become a Democratic presidential nominee in the future, Makarkin said.

"Hillary Clinton's chances as a potential presidential candidate are growing. [U.S. Vice President Joe] Biden is also a possible candidate, but he is too closely related to the Obama administration. And it would be strange for the vice president to start distancing himself from his chief. As for Clinton, she is unrelated to this administration in any way and supported Obama himself in 2008 only out of party discipline, as is customary in the States. But she herself was his most active rival. And Clinton is likely to try to consolidate the Democrats around herself in the current situation," he said.

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