The decision comes as another weakening blow to the relationship between the United States and Russia.
Relations Between Washington and Moscow Weaken
In reaction to a bill passed by congress that will see sanctions against Russia tightened, Russian president Vladimir Putin released a statement that the staff at the US diplomatic mission in Russia would be reduced by 755 members. The announcement comes after worsening relations between Washington and Moscow that began in the Obama administration and had continued well into the Trump government, says The Boston Globe. The report continues to clarify that the 755 employees are not necessarily Americans leaving the question of how many Americans will be sent packing. Putin goes ahead to state that Russia has some retaliatory actions lined up for America. The cut in staff will reduce the numbers to 455, equaling the number of Russian diplomats in the US.
Sanctions Against Russia
A report by Miles Parks of the NPR, says that the introduction of new sanctions against Russia was a move to punish Russia for their interference with the 2016 US elections. According to US intelligence, Kremlin interfered with the 2016 presidential elections in favor of Trump’s victory against Hilary Clinton. Other reasons for the sanctions against Russia include its aggressive behavior towards its neighbors, support of wars in Ukraine as well as the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The New York Times states that Putin’s impatience with the declining Russian-American relations, which he had anticipated would have improved by now, contributed to the move. According to several analysts, Russia may be contemplating moves to challenge the US by targeting such places as Syria and Ukraine. A report from Aljazeera states that Putin also issued a threat to seize two diplomatic properties of the US should the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the sanctions. This move will match the seizure of two Russian diplomatic missions in 2016 during the Obama administration. Regardless of these threats, Maryland Senator Benjamin L. Cardin describes the bill as a message to Russia from the American people and its Allies.
Memories of a Cold War
The New York Times further compares these actions to those of the Cold War period where Russia reciprocated moves made by the US government against Russia. The two countries seem to be in a constant war with neither of the side ready to step down for the other. This is backed by a statement by the deputy foreign minister in Russia, Sergei Ryabkov who describes the passing of the bill as the last straw for the US-Russia diplomatic relations. He further supports Putin’s statement of retaliation against the US. However, like Putin, minister Ryabkov decline to disclose other retaliatory measures lined up for America.
Despite President Trump’s desire to improve relations between Russia and the US, the bill passed by Congress puts him in an awkward position, as he would be unable to lift any economic sanctions against Russia. Trump is therefore left with the option to either veto the bill or pass legislation he does not support.
- By Benjamin Elisha Sawe