The State Department called Russia's decision to cut down the US diplomatic personnel in Moscow a "regrettable and uncalled-for act." Representatives for the department said that they would assess Russia's latest move and a possible response to it, whereas former US Ambassador Michael McFaul has already started predicting inevitable problems - not the Russian authorities, but for ordinary Russians.
"We are assessing the impact of such a limitation and how we will respond to it," Washington said on Sunday. On Friday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft expressed their "disappointment" about Russia's latest decision. Mr. Tillerson made a surprising statement for Moscow. According to him, the unanimous vote on the sanctions bill at US Congress demonstrated the desire to see Russia taking steps to improve the relationship with the United States.
"Washington has never understood that methods of pressure on Russia do not work, and sanctions cannot help improve the relations," officials with the Russian Embassy in the United States responded.
Interestingly, the exact number of the US diplomats who would have to leave Russia was not clear from initial news reports. At first, it was reported that several hundreds of them will have to leave, then the number was specified to 200-300 people. In the long run, it was Russian President Putin, who gave the precise number. In an interview with Rossiya 1 TV channel, Putin said that 755 Americans will have to return to their homeland. "Over 1,000 employees - diplomats and technical workers - worked and continue to work today in Russia; 755 will have to stop this work," he said.
Generally speaking, the history of Russian-American relations (including the Soviet-US period) has never seen such a significant reduction in the number of employees of the US embassy and consulate offices. Expelling diplomats is, of course, a common practice, albeit in a much smaller scale. This news shows how low the relationship between the two countries has fallen. Can it be worse?
Traditionally and predictably, Washington does not want to admit its responsibility for the crisis in the US-Russian relations. Michael McFaul believes that Moscow did not have the right to make such a response. The former ambassador promised that common Russians will have to wait a lot longer to receive their US visas.
Mr. McFaul clearly blames Russia for the current crisis in the relations between Russia and the United States of America. Additionally, one does not have to look for a compromise: Russia either has to accept what the US says about certain events and their consequences or Russia is declared an enemy.
"We waited for a long time for something to change, we were hopeful that the situation would change. But, apparently, if it is going to change, then it is not going to be soon," Putin said in a recent interview.
"We should, I figured, show that we will not leave anything without an answer," the president added.
At the same time, the Russian president stressed that at this stage he did not support restrictions on joint activities that would be "sensitive" for the United States. "We have, of course, what to say and limit the areas of our joint activity that will be sensitive to the American side, but I do not think we should do this, as it will harm not only Russian-American relations as such - it will cause certain damage to us too," Putin said.
Latest news from Washington indicate that the USA has fallen into a policy of hysterical sanctions imposing them for no particular reason. China is said to be the next victim of the US sanctions policy for showing little activity in the regulation of the crisis around North Korea.
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