Over the weekend the Russian government painted the picture that it was forced to respond to provocation by the United States’ government in imposing new sanctions. The Russian government announced that the U.S. mission’s personnel throughout Russia must be reduced by 755 people. Dmitri Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin attempted to strike a conciliatory tone stating that there was room to avoid further escalation but that “the will to normalize these relations should be placed on the record.”
Last week, the U.S. Congress voted in favor of imposing fresh sanctions on the Russian government in response to the Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election. Russian President Putin in announcing the retaliatory action indicated that his patience in waiting for U.S.- Russian relations to improve was at an end. President Trump indicated throughout his campaign that he was interested in improving relations with Russia if possible, however, the President’s hands were tied when the Republican Congress expressed a strong desire to pass the sanctions against Russia and President Trump then indicated he would sign them into law.
According to State Department numbers from 2013, the bulk of the 755 people that will be dismissed are locally employed staff as the total of American plus Russian staff in the various U.S. missions and consulates totals 1,279. This reaction was described as the harshest diplomatic move from Russia against the U.S. since 1986 when the Russian government forced 261 local staff members working in U.S. missions to quit.
This is not the first time the U.S. has sanctioned the Russians for the meddling in the 2016. President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats in December 2016. Congress has also been investigating possible collusion between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Russian President Putin has denied any Russian interference in the 2016 election. One of the biggest effects of the Russian response to expel U.S. personnel will be on visa processing and can hamper U.S. operations within Russia. It remains to be seen what other response the U.S. may have to the new limitations imposed by the Russian government.
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