Concerned that the outgoing actions by the Russian government against the US Embassy in Moscow present a substantial national security risk, impacting significantly the Embassy’s ability to operate, a group of top-ranking Republicans and Democrats asked President Biden to make a move, Axios reports.
These Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees’ members argue that President Biden should expel 300 Russian diplomats if Moscow does not issue more diplomatic visas to make up for its ban on the US Embassy hiring local Russian staff, adding that the lack of reaction will only invite more antagonistic Russian behavior,
If accepted by Biden, the tit for tat measure would be the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats in US history and will pose a major escalation in tensions between the two countries.
Following the extensive review of the Kremlin’s reckless and adversarial actions, including the massive SolarWinds hack of federal agencies and the 2020 election meddling, President Biden expelled 10 Russian diplomats in April and imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia.
This enticed retaliation measures by Kremlin, forcing the US Embassy in Moscow to lay off nearly 200 local employees beginning on Aug. 1 by restricting the US from hiring Russian or third-country staff that Russia has long counted as American diplomats.
The US diplomatic mission is now functioning with just 120 employees.
Intelligence chairman Mark Warner, vice chairman Marco Rubio, Foreign Relations chairman Bob Menendez and ranking member Jim Risch, the senators who signed the letter, stressed that disproportionality in diplomatic representation is unacceptable.
They noted that Russia must issue enough visas to approach parity between the number of US diplomats serving in Russia and the number of Russian diplomats serving in the US.