Rus­sia says sanc­tions forced it to take ac­tion

Krem­lin may want Trump to act af­ter diplo­matic purge.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Neil MacFar­quhar ©2017 The New York Times

The dis­missal of 755 diplo­matic corps em­ploy­ees was stun­ning in its breadth, but Krem­lin ap­pears to be reach­ing out to Trump.

Even as it sought to pun­ish the United States for im­pos­ing new sanc­tions by forc­ing the mass dis­missal of em­ploy­ees from U.S. diplo­matic posts in Rus­sia, the Krem­lin left the door open Mon­day for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to avoid fur­ther es­ca­la­tion.

With­out men­tion­ing the U.S. pres­i­dent di­rectly, Mos­cow seemed to be ap­peal­ing to him to res­ur­rect his cam­paign prom­ise to try to im­prove Rus­sian-U.S. re­la­tions.

“The will to nor­mal­ize these re­la­tions should be placed on the record,” Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, told re­porters Mon­day, and the “at­tempt at sanc­tions dik­tat” should be aban­doned.

The breadth of the dis­missals de­manded — 755 peo­ple, most of whom will be Rus­sian em­ploy­ees — was stun­ning even by the stan­dards of the Cold War play­book from which the move seemed copied. But Peskov sug­gested that Rus­sia had been forced to re­spond to Congress, and that it was not the Krem­lin that was mak­ing mat­ters worse.

“Of course we’re not in­ter­ested in those re­la­tions be­ing sub­ject to ero­sion,” Peskov said. “We’re in­ter­ested in sus­tain­able devel­op­ment of our re­la­tions and can only re­gret that, for now, we are far from this ideal.”

Putin, in the tele­vi­sion in­ter­view dur­ing which he an­nounced the re­tal­ia­tory move, said that Rus­sian pa­tience with wait­ing for re­la­tions to im­prove was at an end.

It was a ma­jor shift in tone from the be­gin­ning of this month, when Putin met Trump for the first time at the Group of 20 sum­mit meet­ing in Ham­burg, Ger­many.

Trump had talked dur­ing his cam­paign of im­prov­ing ties with Rus­sia and had praised Putin, and the Krem­lin had ex­pected the faceto-face meet­ing of the pres­i­dents to mark the start of a new era. The im­me­di­ate as­sess­ment in Mos­cow was that the two had set the stage for bet­ter re­la­tions.

But then, in quick suc­ces­sion, came the ex­panded sanc­tions passed by Congress, Trump’s in­di­ca­tion that he would sign them into law and Mos­cow’s force­ful re­tal­i­a­tion.

In Wash­ing­ton, the State Depart­ment is­sued a state­ment say­ing that it was as­sess­ing the im­pact of the Rus­sian mea­sures and how it would re­spond. The U.S. Em­bassy in Mos­cow de­clined to com­ment.

STEPHEN CROW­LEY / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin shake hands last month at the G-20 sum­mit in Ham­burg, Ger­many. Be­fore the U.S. sanc­tions vote, the Krem­lin had ex­pected the face-to­face meet­ing of the two lead­ers to set the stage for bet­ter re­la­tions be­tween the U.S. and Rus­sia.

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