Putin is sending a message loud and clear.
After Congress acted to make Russia feel its anger over interference in the 2016 election, Russia struck back to make America feel a bit of pain.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that the U.S. diplomatic mission in Russia must cut 755 of its employees. The edict, which takes effect Sept. 1, came in retaliation for sanctions against Russia that Congress overwhelmingly approved last week.
“We waited for quite a long time that, perhaps, something will change for the better, we held out hope that the situation would somehow change,” Putin said in an interview on Russian state-run television.
“Over 1,000 employees — diplomats and technical workers — worked and continue to work today in Russia; 755 will have to stop this activity,” he said. “That is biting.“
In a statement responding Putin’s order, the State Department said, “This is a regrettable and uncalled-for act,” and added that the department is “assessing the impact of such a limitation and how we will respond to it.”
Putin warned that more steps could be taken in the future.
“I am against it as of today,” he said.
Other Russian officials are publicly pushing for a harder response to the sanctions, which President Donald Trump has said he will sign.
“If the U.S. side decides to move further towards further deterioration, we will answer, we will respond in kind, we will mirror this, we will retaliate,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. “But my goal is – and my whole point is – don’t do this. It’s to the detriment of the interests of the US. ”
Ryabkov said the Russian response was “long overdue.”
“After the Senate, the day before yesterday voted, or rather on the 27th of July voted so overwhelmingly on a completely weird and unacceptable piece of legislation, it was the last drop,” Ryabkov said.
Rybakov said Russia has no end of options.
“We have a very rich toolbox at our disposal. It would be ridiculous on my part to start speculating on what may or may not happen,” he said, adding, “I can assure you that different options are on the table and consideration is being given to all sorts of things.”
Foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov, however, said the response is less than it appears on the surface.
“It is the least painful response that Russia could have come up with,” he said. “You can scale them up and scale them down.”
He said relatively few American citizens will be sent home because the U.S. employs Russians for various clerical and support jobs.
“They will have to fire the Russian citizens,” Frolov said. “It will create an enormous inconvenience for the U.S. mission here, essentially slowing down the work but not affecting its core functions.”
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Source: Western Journalism