Today, on the 26th day of March 2018, the president’s team announced the toughest set of US sanctions against Russia. It has been made public that the US government is expelling 60 Russian intelligence agents and diplomats. The basis for this step was in response to the March 4th nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England, which has been traced back to Russia and which critically injured a former spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia while endangering others close-by.
The White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “Today’s actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security. With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences.”
Experts on Russia are asserting that this tougher stance against Russia is a start, but are indicating that further actions need to be taken.
These current actions by the president are puzzling because it contrasts with how the republican President Donald Trump behaved just a few days ago towards Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. This was when he contacted President Putin to congratulate him in winning a recent election where he couldn’t possibly lose, despite all the president’s aides having advised him not to do this. During the call, the president never brought up the subject about the unacceptability of Russia’s nerve action attack on two individuals living in the UK.
The president, himself has not spoken out about these recent sanctions. Unfortunately, the president’s silence sends Russia’s president a signal, that President Putin still has the leader in the White House on his side.
Here is the rest of the story…
On March 26, 2018, Philip Rucker, Michael Birnbaum and Ellen Nakaashima of the Washington Post penned the following report, “Trump administration expels 60 Russian officers, shuts Seattle consulate in response to attack on former spy in Britain”
The Trump administration on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian intelligence and diplomatic officers in New York and Washington and the closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle, joining European allies in retaliation for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.
“Twelve Russian diplomats at the United Nations in New York and 48 at the Russian Embassy in Washington face expulsion by the U.S. government for what senior administration officials described as covert intelligence operations that undermine U.S. national security.”
“The U.S. government also ordered the Russian Consulate in Seattle closed by April 2. Senior administration officials said they believe it has served as a key outpost in Russia’s intelligence operations, in part because of its proximity to a U.S. submarine base as well as Boeing manufacturing facilities.”
“Monday’s (3/26/18) actions were in response to the March 4 nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England, which was blamed on Russia and critically injured a former spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia. The show of solidarity was especially notable because Britain’s plan to leave the European Union has strained relations with many of the country’s neighbors.”
“The U.S. move came in coordination with 14 European nations, which almost simultaneously announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats on Monday in a broad attempt to disrupt the Kremlin’s intelligence network across Europe.”
“We remain critical of the actions of the Russian government,” European Council President Donald Tusk said as he announced the actions by 14 European Union countries to expel Russian diplomats. “Additional measures, including further expulsions within the common E.U. framework, are not to be excluded in the coming days and weeks.”
“Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Finland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Canada all announced they would expel diplomats or intelligence agents, and at least two additional E.U. countries were expected to follow on Monday.”
“In all, at least 28 Russians were being expelled from E.U. nations, along with 13 from Ukraine and four from Canada. Each E.U. country kicked out four diplomats at most, suggesting the measures were intended more to send a symbolic message than as a fundamental attempt to wipe out Russia’s intelligence network across Europe.”
“Separately, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, whose country is not a member of the E.U., also said his country would kick out 13 Russian diplomats.”
“Taken together, the expulsions were an unusually wide-ranging expression of solidarity against Russia following the attack. The E.U. and the United States also coordinated economic sanctions against Russia after the Kremlin annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, but subsequent actions have been more piecemeal.”
“State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement, “We take these actions to demonstrate our unbreakable solidarity with the United Kingdom, and to impose serious consequences on Russia for its continued violations of international norms.”
“The German Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “For the first time since the end of World War II, a chemical weapon was used in the middle of Europe.”
The cascade of expulsions drew expressions of gratitude from Britain, which has sought a stiff response to the attack.”
“Russia typically responds with tit-for-tat measures that expel an equal number of diplomats, sometimes after a delay of several days as the country’s policymakers consider countermeasures. For that reason, small nations that have only a handful of diplomats posted to Russia may hold back from more extensive expulsions.”
“Russian embassies around the world sometimes use their Twitter accounts to troll their host nations, and Monday was no exception. The Russian embassy in Washington took to Twitter to crowdsource its response: “US administration ordered the closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle @GK_Seattle. What US Consulate General would you close in @Russia, if it was up to you to decide”? The tweet included a poll with three options: U.S. consulates in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg.”
“To the Russian government, we say, when you attack our friend you will face serious consequences,” said a senior Trump administration official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.
“As we have continually stressed to Moscow, the door to dialogue is open,” the official added. But Russia must “cease its recklessly aggressive behavior.”
“Analysts said the coordinated response from the United States and European nations further isolates Moscow despite Trump’s ongoing efforts to improve relations with Putin.”
“These expulsions send a message that the West is not going to sweep the use of a nerve agent in a targeted assassination attempt under the rug or go back to business as usual,” said Andrew Weiss, a Russia scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Link to entire report: Trump administration expels 60 Russian officers, shuts Seattle .