Putin: U.S. needs ‘po­lit­i­cal will’ to im­prove tat­tered ties

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV

MOS­COW | Amid a ma­jor diplo­matic re­tal­i­a­tion un­seen since the Cold War era, Rus­sia urged the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on Mon­day to show the “po­lit­i­cal will” to re­pair ties.

Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s move to cut hun­dreds of U.S. diplo­matic per­son­nel in Rus­sia un­der­lines his readi­ness to raise the ante in the face of new sanc­tions ap­proved by the U.S. Congress. The Rus­sian leader warned that he has more weapons in his ar­se­nal to hurt the U.S., but he voiced hope that he wouldn’t need to use them.

Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said it will take time for the U.S. to re­cover from what he called “po­lit­i­cal schizophre­nia,” but he added that Rus­sia wants con­struc­tive co­op­er­a­tion with the new ad­min­is­tra­tion in Wash­ing­ton.

“We are in­ter­ested in a steady devel­op­ment of our ties and are sorry to note that we are still far from that,” he said.

Mr. Peskov’s state­ment fol­lowed tele­vised com­ments Sun­day by Mr. Putin, who said the U.S. would have to cut 755 of its em­bassy and con­sular staff in Rus­sia, a mas­sive re­duc­tion he de­scribed as a re­sponse to new U.S. sanc­tions.

Gleb Pavlovsky, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst who has con­sulted for the Krem­lin in the past, said the con­gres­sional sanc­tions marked a “point of no re­turn.” He de­scribed the per­son­nel cuts as a “mod­er­ate” re­sponse, a sort of an eleventh-hour warn­ing to the U.S. from the Rus­sian pres­i­dent.

“Putin had to do some­thing, and from his point of view, that was the min­i­mal pos­si­ble re­sponse,” he said. “Putin is of­fer­ing to stop, to make a pause.”

He pre­dicted that if the es­ca­la­tion con­tin­ues, “the Krem­lin will go for an in­di­rect strat­egy ... deal­ing blows in other ar­eas of the globe where the U.S. has in­ter­ests.”

The Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry first an­nounced the cuts Fri­day, when it said that the U.S. should re­duce its pres­ence to 455 em­ploy­ees, the num­ber that Rus­sia has in the United States. It also de­clared the clo­sure of a U.S. recre­ational re­treat on the out­skirts of Mos­cow and ware­house fa­cil­i­ties.

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