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