Moscow on Friday asked 10 U.S. diplomats to leave the country in retaliation for Washington’s expulsion of the same number of Russian diplomats over alleged malign activity and suggested the U.S. ambassador return home for consultations.
The moves, part of a broader retaliatory package, were approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin, as a response to a range of U.S. government sanctions imposed on Russia a day earlier, including curbs to its sovereign debt market.
Though Russia responded quickly and with measures designed to hurt American interests and shrink its diplomatic footprint, it left the door open for dialogue and did not kill off the idea, proposed by U.S. President Joe Biden, of a Putin-Biden summit.
“Now is the time for the United States to demonstrate good sense and to turn its back on a confrontational course,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Otherwise an array of painful decisions for the American side will be implemented.”
It noted that it had options to hurt the United States economically and to shrink its diplomatic corps in Russia to only 300 people, but was holding fire for now.
Last month, Russia-U.S. relations plummeted to a new post-Cold War low after Biden said he thought Putin was a “killer” and Russia recalled its ambassador to the United States for consultations. The envoy has still not returned almost a month later.
The Russian foreign ministry said John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, should return home for consultations too.
The U.S. said its own sanctions were payback for Moscow meddling in last year’s U.S. election, cyber hacking, bullying Ukraine and other alleged malign actions.
All the U.S. allegations are denied by Russia.
A State Department representative said by email that the Russian response on Friday was “escalatory and regrettable.”
“It is not in our interest to get into an escalatory cycle, but we reserve the right to respond to any Russian retaliation against the United States.”