Russian President Vladimir Putin apparently had high hopes that his multiple G20 meetings (at least one of them being of the clandestine variety) would produce results despite a nothing burger of a handshake. Yet that didn’t happen, for Congress pushed through a plan for more severe sanctions on Russia last week, and the plan placed (equally severe) limits on what Trump could do about it. So, Russia seized a few U.S. compounds and moved to ditch some U.S. diplomatic staff. Now, the New York Times reports that there are several hundred embassy personnel who will have to leave their posts.
The exact number? 755 diplomats and technical workers. Putin made the call on Russia-state TV, and the number is rather staggering, considering almost three quarters of the 1000 current embassy personnel are getting the boot. The Russian president acknowledged that he had tired of waiting for the U.S. to chill out and decide to improve relations:
Speaking in a television interview on the Rossiya 1 network, Mr. Putin said that Russia had run of patience waiting for relations with the United States to improve.
“We waited for quite some time that maybe something will change for the better, had such hope that the situation will somehow change, but, judging by everything, if it changes, it will not be soon,” Mr. Putin said in the interview, according to Interfax news agency.
While not every staff member who’s set to lose their gigs will have to leave the country, Putin is drawing a clear line in the sand. He really must have thought that Trump could work some magic once he entered the White House — and his administration did immediately move to remove some sanctions upon taking office — but Congress (including a large proportion of GOP members) wasn’t having it.
As much as Russia would prefer, the whole election interference thing isn’t going away any time soon. The NY Times notes that Putin is weighing some “additional options” as a response to hostile relations with the U.S., but he added, “I hope it will not come to this.” How cryptic.
(Via New York Times)