From CNN to FoxNews. From the New York Times to BBC World. Putin is everywhere. Yeltsin, no stranger to the world press, would have killed for this sort of publicity. And Gorbachev was on the front pages – if not the web pages; it was the late 80’s and early 90’s after all – usually for all the wrong reasons, from Putin’s perspective at least. Negotiating arms deals and presiding over the collapse of the Soviet Union, for example.

But this sort of thing – expelling spies – used to happen all the time. The differences between now and the Soviet-era spy expulsions seem to be twofold. First, the numbers of spies were usually far less than the football team’s worth of expulsions that Obama’s administration has enacted. And, more importantly, the rules of the game are unknown at this point. We don’t know how this will play out, because one fears that Putin will react in unpredictable ways, because he is not playing quite the same game as the Soviets used to.

And of course, we don’t know how Trump will react to the sanctions imposed by Obama in the final weeks of his presidency. Trump would like the Russian hacking of the elections to quietly fade away, but Obama has clearly been determined not to let that happen. What was an intelligence matter, and primarily a domestic and partisan electoral matter – seeing that the DNC and Hillary’s campaign chief were the main victims of the hacks – is now an international incident. For some the sanctions are too little too late. For others they are too loud and too public.

Jim Woolsey ex CIA, for example, on FoxNews complained that Obama should have retaliated quietly and forcefully – essentially keeping the matter an intelligence matter. He also complained that the United States of America did not send public condolences to Russia after the crash of it’s Tupolev airliner last week carrying the Red Army Choir on a mission to Syria. Which seems a little fussy and formal for 21st century politics. As if Woolsey really would like a return to the Soviet American spy game of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Right now that does not seem possible. This is a new game that Putin is defining, and America’s President-Elect will have to get up to speed very quickly on possible tactical and strategic responses available to the White House. Because a Russian reaction to Obama’s expulsions is coming, likely within a fairly short time frame. And it may not be tit-for-tat. This is just getting started. Putin is ruthless and unapologetic with his tactics, as the last 16 years of his running Russia prove. And this cyber/spy war will run both hot and cold, often at the same time. Time for a regular intel briefing, Mr. President-Elect. You have no choice now.

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