United States President Donald Trump said "I want to thank" Russian President Vladimir Putin for kicking hundreds of US embassy employees out of Moscow as Washington is "trying to cut down its payroll."
"I greatly appreciate the fact that we've been able to cut our payroll of the United States. … We're going to save a lot of money … there's no real reason for them to go back," the president said Thursday at a meeting with journalists at his golf complex in New Jersey.
"I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll," Trump added.Following the latest sanctions bill targeting Russia, Iran and North Korea, the Russian government decided to reduce the number of US diplomatic personnel by 755 employees by September 1.
Commenting on the move, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called it a "regrettable step" and said that Washington "would like to have a better relationship" with Moscow.
Earlier, State Secretary Rex Tillerson said that the US government would respond to the expulsion of American diplomats by the end of the month. Washington has yet to decide what responsive measures it will take, according to Tillerson.
In an interview with Radio Sputnik, political analyst Dmitry Zhuravlev, director of the Institute of Regional Problems in Moscow, shared his thoughts on how Washington could respond to the expulsion of American diplomats from Moscow.According to the expert, the US will definitely deliver a response because it is required by both diplomatic tradition and the current disposition of the US establishment.
"If the State Department doesn’t respond there will be a lot of criticism against Tillerson from the US establishment. They may once again accuse him of being a 'Russian agent.' So, he will have to respond. Possibly, there will be more cuts of diplomatic personnel and more consulates may be shut down. But such measures are rather a demonstrative ritual," Zhuravlev suggested.
He pointed out that the situation would reach a real stalemate when both sides run out of such formal diplomatic gestures.
"There will be a deadlock and no one will know how to break it. Back in the day, the world already saw such a deadlock. It was during the Caribbean Crisis when the world was on the verge of war. But would anyone need a new Caribbean crisis? It would be very shortsighted. I think that neither the US nor the Russian side will recall their ambassadors," Zhuravlev said.Back in December 2016, then-US President Barack Obama ordered to send 35 Russian diplomats out of the United States and froze access to two Russian diplomatic compounds over Moscow's alleged interference in the US 2016 presidential run. The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected the allegations, denouncing the claims as absurd and referring to the lack of any evidence.
Earlier this month a new package of restrictions against Russia was signed into law by US President Donald Trump after it had passed almost unanimously by Congress.
The new law targets Russia's defense, intelligence, mining, shipping and railway industries and restricts dealings with Russian banks and energy companies.