Russia-US row: Putin rules out tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ruled out a tit-for-tat response after the US expelled 35 Russian diplomats amid a row over hacking.
He said Russia would not “stoop” to the level of “irresponsible diplomacy” but would work to restore ties with the US under Presidentelect Donald Trump.
Russia’s foreign ministry had formally asked Mr Putin to expel 35 US envoys.
The country denies involvement in hacking related to the US election, calling US sanctions “ungrounded”.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev accused the outgoing US administration of President Barack Obama of ending in “anti-Russian death throes”.
Under the US action taken on Thursday:
from Russia’s Washington embassy and its consulate in San Francisco were declared “persona non grata” and given 72 hours to leave the US with their families
Two properties said to have been used by Russian intelligence services in New York and Maryland were closed on Friday
Sanctions were announced against nine entities and individuals including two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB.
Mr Obama, who will be replaced by Donald Trump on 20 January, had vowed action against Russia amid US accusations that it directed cyber-attacks on the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Emails stolen from her campaign manager and from the servers of the Democratic National Committee - some containing embarrassing information for Democrats - were released during the election campaign.
This was a carefully stagemanaged response from Mr Putin - dangling the possibility of tit-for-tat expulsions and then showing magnanimity in postponing any response - at least for now.
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.
It also poses an immediate test for Presidentelect Trump. Will he be convinced by the evidence the US intelligence agencies say they have? And, if so, what course will he steer in his relations with Russia? This is no new Cold War. Russia is simply a kind of “pocket” superpower, nothing like the Soviet Union of old. But Mr Putin has shown here in relations with the West, as in Ukraine and Syria, that he can play a limited hand with great skill. Mr Trump will need to respond to this challenge in a decisive but graduated way.