After Congress approved a package of additional sanctions against Russia for its interference in last year’s elections in the United States, Moscow offered Washington to reduce its diplomatic presence in Russia, potentially forcing hundreds of Embassy staff in the country to leave their jobs.
This step seems to indicate that Moscow hopes for a new and improved relations with the United States under President Donald trump came to an end.
Russian officials introduced this requirement as a long-delayed response to repeated hostile actions of Washington.
Given that trump is embroiled in an ongoing scandal involving alleged ties to members of his election headquarters, the Congress approved this week sanctions against Russia. Without waiting for trump to sign the bill on additional sanctions and give it the force of law, Russia announced its second step.
On Friday morning in the Ministry of foreign Affairs had summoned the US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft (John Tefft) to familiarize themselves with this information. In a statement posted on the Ministry’s website, States that the number of diplomatic and technical staff of the American diplomatic mission in Russia should not exceed 455.
The Russian foreign Ministry has stated that it is also suspending the use of the U.S. Embassy dacha (summer residence) on the outskirts of Moscow and cut off access to the storerooms. According to the statement of the Russian side, the restrictive measures in respect of diplomatic property take effect from the first of August, and the reduction of diplomatic presence must occur before the first of September.
According to the statement of the Russian foreign Ministry, the number 455 corresponds exactly to the number of Russian diplomats accredited to work in the United States. This number applies to all employees of the Embassy — as American diplomats and workers from among local residents employed.
Due to the fact that it means the number of 445 in respect of staff of the US diplomatic mission in Russia, there was a lack of clarity. The representative of the Embassy refused to comment on numbers, saying only: “We received notification of the Russian authorities. Ambassador Tefft expressed deep disappointment and protest. We have forwarded this notice to Washington for review”.
Reuters, citing a source in the Embassy, reports that in Moscow there are about 300 of us diplomats and the personnel of the Embassy in Moscow and consulates in three other cities in the country a total of about 1100 people. If this figure is accurate, the decision adopted by Russia, would mean that leaving the country will have more than 600 employees.
As stated by the information Agency “Interfax” a source in the Russian foreign Ministry to reduce the number of personnel 455 people, all questions on the personnel changes will have to decide the American side. The Russian side did not name a specific diplomats who will have to leave the country, as it usually happens in cases of expulsion of diplomats.
RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed Russian source, which said that the dismissal or sending to USA should be 200-300 employees and that for Americans the process will be “very painful”.
The reason for the decision, which was announced on Friday, became a new round of sanctions. However, it was taken partly in response to the final step taken by the Obama administration against Russia.
In December Obama ordered to deport 35 Russian diplomats and the arrest of two objects of the Russian diplomatic property in response to Russia’s intervention the American elections in 2016. Moscow then took the unusual decision not to take retaliatory measures, presumably after he had received assurances that the new administration administration trump will cancel the order Obama.
However, this did not happen. The political consensus that exists in Washington to support new sanctions against Russia, has become more solid, the house of representatives and the Senate this week overwhelmingly approved a bill on sanctions against Russia, North Korea and Iran.
On Thursday, Vladimir Putin said that the Russian response to a new wave of sanctions is inevitable. “We, as you know, are very prudent, patient, but at some point we have to answer,… because it was impossible to tolerate rudeness in our country”.
The President and other Russian officials have repeatedly denied any interference in the elections in the US, although US intelligence agencies claim that they have irrefutable evidence that Russia has pursued a coordinated campaign.
According to the statement made by Russia on Friday, the fed’s actions “confirm once again the extreme aggressiveness of the United States” who are “arrogantly ignoring the positions and interests of other States”. As stated in the statement of the foreign Ministry, among American elites “entrenched Russophobia” Russia has taken a “responsible and restrained”.
The Ministry said that if the U.S. side chooses to enter against Russia additional sanctions, it will be given a symmetrical response.
Donald trump has not yet signed the bill on new sanctions and does not give it the force of law. And considering that Russia announced retaliatory measures will only enter into force on the first of September, it is likely that, if trump does not approve a bill, they can be cancelled. However, the President of the United States is facing serious pressure to demonstrate the rigidity in relation to Russia, given the scandals associated with alleged Russian interference in American elections and the alleged collusion between the Russian and his team.
There is also a likelihood that U.S. and Russian sides can agree on a mutual increase diplomatic presence before the Russian retaliatory measures will take effect. Russian officials for many weeks complain in connection with what U.S. authorities do not issue visas to diplomats that Russia wants to send is one of those diplomats expelled in December.
On Friday evening the Secretary of state Rex Tillerson has held a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. As stated in the statement of the MFA of Russia, the Russian foreign Minister said Tillerson that Russia “remains ready to normalize relations”, and the foreign Ministers “agreed to continue contacts all questions of bilateral relations”.