To say that diplomatic relations between the United States and Russia aren’t so great would be quite the understatement. Sure, there isn’t an all-out armed conflict between the two super powers at the moment, but with a recent report that hackers sponsored by the latter government infiltrated the Democratic National Committee’s computers and stole “opposition research,” things aren’t great. Hence why Russian President Vladimir Putin recently asked European businesses to help end sanctions against his country in what Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and others have dubbed a “new cold war.” That, and the country’s security and intelligence operatives are allegedly harassing U.S. diplomats abroad.
According to a truly bizarre story by the Washington Post, things have gotten so bad that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had to confront Putin about his people’s actions. Which begs the question, “How bad is it that America’s top diplomat has to personally intervene on his department’s behalf?” Plenty of “routine” actions like “following diplomats or their family members, showing up at their social events uninvited or paying reporters to write negative stories about them,” as well as frighteningly weird ones like what allegedly happened to embassy staffers whose homes were broken into:
In a series of secret memos sent back to Washington, described to me by several current and former U.S. officials who have written or read them, diplomats reported that Russian intruders had broken into their homes late at night, only to rearrange the furniture or turn on all the lights and televisions, and then leave. One diplomat reported that an intruder had defecated on his living room carpet.
Yes, that’s right. Somebody broke into an American official’s home a ruined a perfectly good carpet. One that probably really tied the room together.
After digging a little deeper (into the story, not the carpet poop), the Washington Post discovered countless examples of intimidation tactics like these being used against State Department staffers by Russian security and intelligence agents. The worst of the worst happens in Moscow, where certain individuals “broke into the house of the U.S. defense attache in Moscow and killed his dog” during President Obama’s first term.
As for the reasoning behind Russia’s renewed aggression against American officials, everyone the paper talked to agreed as to why this was happening:
“Since the return of Putin, Russia has been engaged in an increasingly aggressive gray war across Europe. Now it’s in retaliation for Western sanctions because of Ukraine. The widely reported harassment is another front in the gray war,” said Norm Eisen, U.S. ambassador the Czech Republic from 2011 to 2014. “They are hitting American diplomats literally where they live.”
“It definitely escalated when I was there. After the invasion of Ukraine, it got much, much worse,” [former ambassador Michael McFaul] said. “We were feeling embattled out there in the embassy.”
However, a Russian spokesperson who responded to the Washington Post‘s request for comment offered an alternative explanation, one in which Putin’s nation was not at all responsible for the escalated harassment:
“The deterioration of U.S.-Russia relations, which was not caused by us, but rather by the current Administrations’ policy of sanctions and attempts to isolate Russian, had a negative affect on the functioning of diplomatic missions, both in U.S. and Russia,” the spokesman said. “In diplomatic practice there is always the principle of reciprocity and, indeed, for the last couple of years our diplomatic staff in the United States has been facing certain problems. The Russian side has never acted proactively to negatively affect U.S. diplomats in any way.”
Everyone should just take a load off (but not on a stranger’s carpet) and binge-watch The Americans.
(Via the Washington Post)