Russia-US ties grow “extremely tense” amid diplomatic brawl

April 17, 2021 | Updated 3:18 pm

Russia-US ties grow “extremely tense” amid diplomatic brawl The U.S. flag waves in the wind at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia, on April 16, 2021. (Xinhua/Evgeny Sinitsyn)

Moscow(Xinhua): Clashes between Russia and the United States on the diplomatic front have intensified to a new level after Moscow announced a slew of retaliatory measures to the recent US sanctions.

In a swift response, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday in a statement that it will expel 10 US diplomats, bar eight incumbent and former American high-ranking officials from entering Russia indefinitely, among other restrictions.

The trade of bitter criticisms looks set to dampen the slight prospect of thawing Moscow-Washington relations following a phone conversation between the two presidents earlier this week, and a worse scenario can’t be ruled out.

Tough Count(ermeasures

In addition to the diplomats’ expulsion, the Russian Foreign Ministry imposed an entry ban on eight US figures for their “involvement in the implementation of the anti-Russian course,” including Attorney General Merrick Garland, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Christopher Wray, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

Russia will limit the US embassy’s practice of using short-term trips by State Department staff to support the functioning of diplomatic missions, by reducing the issuance of visas to them to a minimum: up to 10 people per year.

Moscow will completely ban US diplomatic missions from hiring citizens of Russia or third countries to administrative and technical posts.

The bilateral 1992 memorandum of understanding on “open ground” is declared invalid due to US diplomats’ systematic violations of rules for trips in Russia, the ministry said.

Russia will terminate the activities of U.S. foundations and non-governmental organizations controlled by the State Department or other American government agencies.

Russia has provided “an adequate and symmetrical response” to the confrontational policy of the White House, said Leonid Slutsky, head of the International Affairs Committee of Russia’s lower parliament house the State Duma.

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a briefing session via video link with permanent members of the Security Council on the response to the U.S. sanctions on April 16, 2021. (Kremlin press release)

Deplorable Situation

A rare situation could appear soon that Russia and the United States, the world’s two leading nuclear powers, would have no ambassadors to each other.

“This extremely tense situation objectively requires the ambassadors of our countries to be in their respective capitals to analyze developments and hold consultations,” the Russian ministry said, implicitly asking US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan to leave the country.

Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov has been summoned back to Moscow for nearly a month amid the deteriorating ties.

Bracing for potential fighting back from Washington, the Russian Foreign Ministry threatened that it could slash the number of personnel in U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia to 300 from the current cap of 455.

Russia has opportunities to “take painful measures” against U.S. businesses, but for now, the tools will be kept in the arsenal, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a press conference.

Photo was taken in Arlington, Virginia, the United States, on March 31, 2021, shows a screen displaying U.S. President Joe Biden delivered a speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in a live stream provided by CNBC. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

This diplomatic brawl has cast a shadow over the participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Washington-initiated Leaders Summit on Climate next week and a possible in-person meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden this summer in Europe.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow assessed Biden’s offer for a meeting with Putin positively, but now it will re-consider it in the context of the latest developments.

“We are ready to engage in calm and professional dialogue with the United States in order to find ways of normalizing bilateral ties. However, the reality is that we hear one thing from Washington but see something completely different in practice,” the ministry’s statement read.