Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday he will expel 755 U.S diplomats by the end of the month. Earlier this week, Putin signaled he’d retaliate against a bill Congress passed that increases sanctions against Russia for its illegal invasion of the Crimea, and for interfering in the U.S. election.
Putin made the announcement in an interview with a Russian TV station, saying:
The American side has made a move which, it is important to note, hasn't been provoked by anything, to worsen Russian-US relations. [The sanctions include] unlawful restrictions, attempts to influence other states of the world, including our allies, who are interested in developing and keeping relations with Russia.
We've been waiting for quite a long time that maybe something would change for the better, we had hopes that the situation would change. But it looks like, it's not going to change in the near future ... I decided that it is time for us to show that we will not leave anything unanswered.
The decision to remove U.S. diplomats meets similar actions taken by the Obama administration last December, when it seized two Russian diplomatic properties—one in Maryland, one in New York—and reduced its staff in the U.S. to 455. Russian had signaled the expulsion Friday, but Putin’s statement was the first confirmation of how many diplomats would be removed.
From Putin’s statement, it seems he’d held out hope that the Trump administration would improve the U.S.-Russian relations, as the U.S. president has said he wants to. Trump often praises Putin, and he’s said he’d like to work Russian more closely on international issues, especially fighting ISIS. But allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian leaders has made a closer relationship politically impossible, and there is overwhelming bipartisan support for the sanctions. The Senate’s bill passed with a 98-2 vote. And a similar measure in the U.S. House of Representatives passed with a sweeping 419-3.
The bill also included increased sanctions against Iran, and North Korea. Typically, a president can waive sanctions deemed detrimental to the U.S. But lawmakers included a mandate that would force Trump to consult with Congress if he wants to make changes. Trump originally opposed the bill, calling it an infringement upon his executive power. But the White House has said it plans to sign the bill into law; although, it didn’t have much choice, because there are more than enough votes in Congress to override a presidential veto.