The Russian government is considering ordering the U.S. to recall upwards of 150 additional diplomats in retaliation for the recent shuttering of its San Francisco consulate, a top Moscow official told state-owned media Wednesday.
Georgy Borisenko, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s North America Department, told the RIA news agency that Moscow is weighing whether to demand that Washington further reduce the number of U.S. diplomats in Russia from 455 down to 300 — a fraction of the more than 1,200 U.S. diplomatic personnel stationed there before a tit-for-tat row recently erupted between the former Cold War foes.
The Obama administration expelled a few dozen supposed Russian diplomats in Dec. 2016 after U.S. intelligence officials concluded that the Russian government interfered in last year’s White House race. Moscow responded in July by ordering the U.S. to cut the number of its own diplomatic and technical staff in Russia by 60 percent from roughly 1,200 to 455, and the U.S. retaliated last month by seizing and searching Russia’s San Francisco consulate.
“As for the response, we’ve said, including in public, that in diplomacy there is an inviolable principle of reciprocity, and Americans know this very well,” Mr. Borisenko said. “If they behaved in this way, it means they agree that we can act in kind with their foreign institutions in Russia. With regards to specific measures, we will consider them, and if necessary, they will be applied.
“In this case, the number of American personnel in Russia should decline to a level of 300 or below,” Mr. Borisenko added.
The U.S. State Department did not immediately return an email seeking comment Wednesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized state-sponsored hackers, propagandists and other actors to interfere in last year’s White House race in hopes of hampering Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, according to U.S. intelligence officials. The Kremlin has denied the allegations.
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