Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russia will not expel U.S. diplomats despite President Barack Obama’s order to boot 35 Russian intelligence operatives.
Putin says he won’t deport U.S. diplomats as he looks to cultivate relations with incoming Trump administration https://t.co/IueD8f4Qkr
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 30, 2016
As part of the response to Russian hacking of political organizations, Obama Thursday announced that the U.S. was closing down compounds in New York and Maryland that the Russian government used for intelligence operations. Obama also ordered sanctions against Russian intelligence agencies, several Russian officials and three Russian companies the U.S. said assisted Russia in its hacking.
It is regrettable that the Obama administration, which started out by restoring our ties, is ending its term in an anti-Russia agony. RIP
— Dmitry Medvedev (@MedvedevRussiaE) December 30, 2016
As Russian officials attacked Obama’s action, Putin was urged to respond in kind.
“Russia’s foreign ministry… has requested that the Russian president approve declaring as persona non grata 31 employees of the US embassy in Moscow and four diplomats from the US consulate in Saint Petersburg,” said Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. Lavrov also wanted two U.S. diplomatic compounds closed.
However, Putin’s response eschewed the type of tit-for-tat expulsions that marked the Cold War era.
“We regard the recent unfriendly steps taken by the outgoing US administration as provocative and aimed at further weakening the Russia-US relationship. This runs contrary to the fundamental interests of both the Russian and American people. Considering the global security responsibilities of Russia and the United States, this is also damaging to international relations as a whole,” Putin said in a statement. Russia has denied hacking any American political organizations.
“Although we have the right to retaliate, we will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration,” he added.
“We will not create any problems for US diplomats. We will not expel anyone. We will not prevent their families and children from using their traditional leisure sites during the New Year’s holidays. Moreover, I invite all children of US diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas children’s parties in the Kremlin,” Putin added.
Putin also included messages to both Obama and President-elect Donald Trump.
“It is regrettable that the Obama Administration is ending its term in this manner. Nevertheless, I offer my New Year greetings to President Obama and his family,” he said. “My season’s greetings also to President-elect Donald Trump and the American people.”
One expert said the response was very calculated.
“This was a carefully stage-managed response from Mr. Putin – dangling the possibility of tit-for-tat expulsions and then showing magnanimity in postponing any response – at least for now,” wrote Jonathan Marcus of the BBC.
“It is fundamentally a put-down for the Obama administration, suggesting that, in Moscow’s view, it is such a lame-duck, so irrelevant, as to make any response unnecessary,” he added.
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