According to the Associated Press, State Secretary Rex Tillerson informed Monday that the U.S. will respond to the Russian government’s move to cut down the number of American diplomatic staff by over 700, Politico reports.
The U.S. has yet to decide what retaliatory steps it would take, Tillerson said, only that those steps would be taken by September 1. The Secretary of State vowed the U.S. will respond following a meeting on Sunday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Philippines, where Tillerson asked Lavrov “several clarifying questions.”
Russia’s decision to cut 755 people from the U.S. embassy and consulate was a vindictive step and a payback on the sanctions package imposed last month by Congress, targeting the Russian government, as well as Iran and North Korea. President Donald Trump signed the bill last week, after much accusation of his “cozy” relationship with Moscow.
The secretary of state also said that the Russian delegation had shown “some willingness” to start talks on ending the continuous violence in Ukraine, where the Russian army has been participating since the 2014 revolution that expelled pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Tillerson said the U.S. has been purposefully deliberate in its negotiations regarding Ukraine, reassuring that no party left out of the process. He stated that the United States and Russia remain exponentially different, adding that the two countries still have major security issues to debate. The U.S. and Russia should not “just cut everything off on one single issue,” like Ukraine, the secretary of state said.