Russia has responded in kind to a barrage of new US sanctions, saying it would expel 10 US diplomats and take other retaliatory moves in the showdown with Washington.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, also said on Friday that Moscow will add eight US officials to its sanctions list and move to restrict and stop the activities of US non-governmental organizations from interfering in Russia’s politics.
He said the Kremlin suggested that the US ambassador, John Sullivan, follow the example of his Russian counterpart and head home for consultations. Russia will also move to deny the US embassy the possibility to hire personnel from Russia and third countries as support staff.
The moves follow the sanctions on Russia announced this week by the Biden administration.
While the US wields the power to cripple the Russian economy, Moscow lacks levers to respond in kind, although it potentially could hurt American interests in many other ways around the globe.
Lavrov noted that while Russia could take “painful measures” against American business interests in Russia, it would not immediately move to do that.
Russia has denied interfering in the 2020 US presidential election and involvement in the SolarWind hack of federal agencies – the activities punished by the latest US sanctions. The Russian foreign ministry warned of an “inevitable” retaliation, charging that “Washington should realize that it will have to pay a price for the degradation of bilateral ties.”
The US on Thursday ordered 10 Russian diplomats expelled, targeted dozens of companies and people, and imposed new curbs on Russia’s ability to borrow money. Pundits had predicted that while Moscow would respond in kind to the expulsions, it would refrain from any other significant moves to avoid a further escalation.
Russia’s economic potential and its global reach are limited compared with the Soviet Union that competed with the US for international influence during the cold war. Still, Russia’s nuclear arsenal and its leverage in many parts of the world make it a power that Washington needs to reckon with.
Aware of that, Joe Biden called for de-escalating tensions and held the door open for cooperation with Russia in certain areas. Biden said he told Putin in Tuesday’s call that he chose not to impose tougher sanctions for now and proposed to meet in a third country in the summer.
Lavrov said the summit offer was being analyzed.
More details soon …