Russia is ready to significantly trim the amount of personnel at the U.S. embassy in Moscow as a response to the seizure of its diplomatic compounds in the United States and the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats.
According to Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow is ready to retaliate diplomatically to the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and the seizure of two diplomatic compounds in the United States.
In December 2016, former U.S. President Barack Obama approved the expulsion of the Russian diplomats as well as the seizure of the two compounds over the alleged involvement of Russia in the hacking of the U.S. presidential election campaign.
Zakharova believes the United States under Obama left a number of unsettled issues to the new American President and its executive team.
“If they don’t discontinue this practice, then it will be hard to build relations,” Zakharova added. “It particularly concerns the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats the unlawful seizure of Russia’s property despite its diplomatic immunity,” the foreign ministry’s spokeswoman noted according to TASS.
Adding to the expulsion of the 35 Russian diplomats, the U.S. is still refusing to issue visas to those who are supposed to replace the expelled diplomats and has yet decided if they would return the seized compounds.
“The seized compounds have not been returned yet. Washington has not only failed to cancel the decision on the expulsion of our diplomats, but it also refuses to issue visas to those who are scheduled to replace the expelled personnel,” she said. “Attempts are being made to link the unlinkable and beat around the bush when it comes to actual issues,” she added.
One of the step Moscow is considering taking is to even out the amount of U.S. diplomatic personnel working at the embassy to the approved amount of Russian diplomats in the United States.
Taking retaliatory measures might seem drastic but when diplomatic immunity — protected by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations — is jeopardized based on unproven allegations, it is only understandable that those measures are taken.
That said, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon will meet in Washington on July 17 and will discuss the issue.
U.S. President Donald Trump could very well return the two seized compounds to Russia as a sign of good will, and as a gesture to prove Washington’s willingness to work with its Russian partners.
As for the expelled 35 Russian diplomats and their replacements, Moscow will remain firm in the possible expulsion of U.S. diplomats to even the numbers. However, due to the Vienna Convention, there is a decent possibility the United States retracts their decision and issue those visas.