Russia warned it would respond proportionally to yesterday's unprecedented sanctions and diplomatic expulsions unveiled by the Obama administration, and this morning it did just that when Russia's foreign ministry announced plans to expel 35 U.S. diplomats and ban U.S. diplomatic staff from using a dacha and a warehouse in Moscow in retaliation to Washington's sanctions, Russian news agencies reported.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by the agencies as saying he had proposed the measures to President Vladimir Putin, and said that “we cannot leave such acts unanswered. Reciprocity is part of diplomatic law."
He called the people in question—31 employees at the U.S. embassy in Moscow and 4 in the U.S. consulate in St Petersburg—“persona non-grata.”
Mr. Lavrov also said Americans should be banned from using their vacation home near Moscow.
Other joined Lavrov: additional proposed measures are expected though: Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her Facebook page Thursday, "there will be official statements, counter-measures" announced on Friday. Dimitry Peskov, Putin's press secretary, echoed likewise: "We will certainly response adequately…and it will be determined in line with decisions adopted by the Russian President."
Peskov warned, "there is no doubt that Russia's adequate and mirror response will make Washington officials feel very uncomfortable as well."
Ultimately, it is up to Putin to draft such retaliatory measures.
ABC News had previously reported, citing a US official, that Moscow had ordered the the shutdown of the Anglo-American School of Moscow - chartered by the American, British, and Canadian embassies in Moscow - but a US embassy official in Moscow said the school had not been shuttered. Russia's foreign ministry also denied the school's closure.
Nonetheless, as the WSJ notes, the "dispute marks one of the biggest diplomatic confrontations between Washington and Moscow since the end of the Cold War." President Barack Obama in a statement on what he called a partial response to Russia’s alleged hacks, said the cyberattacks “could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government.”
Russia has denied involvement and Lavrov, as well as millions of Americans, have accused the U.S. of neither having nor showing any evidence.
“The outgoing American administration of Barack Obama, who have accused Russia of all mortal sins and tried to blame us for the failure of its foreign policy initiatives, among other things, has groundlessly made additional accusations that Russia interfered in the U.S. election campaign at the state level,” he said.
The Russian act was in retaliation to sanctions imposed on Thursday by the US on Russian intelligence agencies and expelled what the State Department said were 35 intelligence operatives allegedly serving under diplomatic cover from the Russian embassy in Washington and the Russian consulate in San Francisco.
Shortly after Obama's announcement, Donald Trump, who has shown a far more amenable side to dealing with Russia, said that "It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things" but added that "in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation."
We anticipate that despite some potential complications, Trump will gradually overturn Obama's sanctions as relations between the US and Russia renormalize once Trump is inaugurated in three weeks.