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How the tit-for-tat between Russia and the US unfolded

It all feels very Cold War, but the tensions have much more to do with recent events

Gulf News

Washington

Lately, relations between the United States and Russia have seemed to take a page from Hammurabi: an eye for an eye, a consulate for a consulate.

Since December, the two countries have been engaged in an increasingly heated diplomatic tit-for-tat. Last month, the Kremlin asked the US to trim its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 people. As a result, Russians who want to visit the US must wait much longer for visas. And now, they can only apply in Moscow. Last week, US officials ordered Russia to shutter its consulate in San Francisco and offices in Washington and New York.

It all feels very Cold War (in 1986, in fact, the US and the Soviet Union expelled each other’s diplomats). But the tensions have much more to do with recent events. Washington and Moscow are at an impasse over lots of things, including the wars in Ukraine and Syria. Russia has been accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential election. As a result, Trump signed a stepped-up sanctions bill earlier.

A detailed timeline

December 29, 2016: US president Barack Obama expels dozens of Russian officials and orders two Russian recreational compounds in New York and Maryland to be closed. The decision comes in response to Russian interference in the US presidential election and the harassment of American diplomats in Russia. The new measures also includes sanctions on Russian intelligence agencies and companies that are believed to have helped the government in its cyber-operations.

December 30: Russian President Vladimir Putin chooses not to retaliate against the US — hoping to wait and see what direction then-President-elect Donald Trump will take.

April 12, 2017: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. At a joint news conference, they talk of improving US-Russia relations.

May 10: Trump meets with Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office. The Washington Post would later report that Trump revealed highly classified information during the meeting.

June 15: A new sanctions bill against Russia is approved by the Senate. The measures include language that would prevent Trump from scaling back sanctions against Moscow without first seeking congressional approval. The bill goes to the House.

July 17: Russia continues to demand the return of its two diplomatic compounds in the United States. Lavrov calls it “robbery in broad daylight.”

July 18: Trump meets Putin for the first time as president during the Group of 20 summit in Germany.

July 27: In a huge blow to warmer relations between the United States and Moscow, the Senate finally passes the Russia sanctions bill after the House approved it two days prior. The measures target Russia’s defence, intelligence, energy, railways, metals and mining sectors.

July 28: In retaliation to the Russia sanctions bill, the Kremlin says it plans to seize two US properties and orders a significant reduction of the US diplomatic staff in Russia.

July 30: Putin orders the US diplomatic missions in Russia to reduce their staff by 755 people in retaliation to the sanctions.

August 2: Trump reluctantly signs a bill imposing new sanctions on Russia. In a statement, Trump calls the bill “seriously flawed.”

August 21: The US Embassy stops issuing visas to Russians as a diplomatic spat worsens.

August 31: The Trump administration orders three Russian diplomatic facilities in San Francisco, New York and Washington closed following the expulsion of American diplomats American from Russia. The State Department said the facilities, which are smaller than the main Russian Embassy in Washington, must shut down on September 2.

—Washington Post

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