Donald Trump says building a “good relationship” with Russia isn’t about his interests, but America’s. Russia “can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming Arms Race,” the president noted last week in explaining why he had congratulated Vladimir Putin on his victory in an unfree election.
On Monday, however, the U.S.-Russian relationship went from bad to worse. The Trump administration shut down the Russian consulate in Seattle and ordered 60 diplomats to leave the United States in retaliation for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter with a nerve agent. Canada and several European countries also booted Russian officials, in what the British prime minister has described as the “largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history.” The United States and its allies have blamed the Russian government for the chemical-weapon attack, which targeted British citizens on British soil.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Trump administration officials stated that the United States can’t improve relations with Russia while the Kremlin is denying responsibility for the attempted murder, messing with America’s friends, and engaging in a “steady drumbeat of destabilizing and aggressive actions” in the U.S. and around the world. Russian agents “hide behind a veneer of diplomatic immunity while actively engaging in intelligence operations that undermine the country in which they are hosted and the democracies they seek to minimize,” a senior administration official explained.