On Monday, the Trump Administration announced its plan to expel dozens of Russian diplomats stationed across the US. This was part of a globally coordinated response to the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei V. Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, UK.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders referred to the March 4th nerve agent novichok attack on Skripal as “ongoing pattern of destabilizing activities around the world,” being conducted by the Kremlin.
According to White House officials, there were 48 Russian diplomats stationed around the U.S., including those at the Russian embassy at Washington, and 12 who were in the country as part of the Russian mission to the United Nations in New York, but are facing banishment charges for overseeing Russian intelligence activities under the diplomatic cover.
Furthermore, officials have ordered the Russian consulate in Seattle to be shut down. The Russian consulate in Seattle is located near Boeing manufacturing plants and a U.S. naval base.
According to a senior administration official, the expulsion orders of the Russian diplomats come with a seven day deadline, during which all the diplomats must leave the country.
“With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences,” Sanders said.
“The United States stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government’s behavior,” she added.
“This was a reckless attempt by the Russian government to murder a British citizen and his daughter with a military-grade nerve agent,” said a senior Trump administration official, and added “an attack on America’s closest ally … cannot go unanswered.”
In response to the White House statement, a British official was quoted saying “an exceptionally strong signal of transatlantic unity, U.S. leadership, and support for the U.K. and Prime Minister Theresa May.”
Apart from the U.S., around 21 countries (mainly from Europe) have ordered the expulsion of more than 135 Russian diplomats.
“Together we have sent a message that we will not tolerate Russia’s continued attempts to flout international law and undermine our values,” said British Prime Minister Theresa May to the Parliament on Monday.
She referred to this joint initiative as “largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied all allegations regarding their involvement of Russia in the nerve agent attack that took place in the UK. “We already stated and reconfirm that Russia has never had any relation to this case,” he said. The Foreign Ministry will soon propose set retaliatory measures, against this joint expulsion to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
For now, the Russian Foreign Ministry has declared this expulsion of Russian diplomats as an “unfriendly step”, which they say “will not pass unnoticed.”
President Trump is trying hard to maintain cordial relations between the U.S. and Russia, to avoid an inevitable war. However, his efforts, like his congratulatory phone call to Putin on his reelection, caused quite a stir. Maybe his current crackdown on Russian diplomats will momentarily silence his critics, who believe that there is a possible collusion between the Kremlin and the U.S. President.