Moscow’s retaliation to US sanctions could far outweigh the Obama administration’s expulsion of 35 Russians last year.
That was part of the US response to so-called cyber interference by Moscow in the US election campaign, accusations Russia has repeatedly denied.
Now Moscow has ordered the US to reduce its number of diplomats and staff to 455, a reduction of more than 700.
Steven Pifer of the Brookings Institution said the large majority of those numbers will likely fall on Russians who work at the U.S. Embassy.
“It’s going to affect embassy operations but it’s not 755 diplomats, I think they’re talking about a total embassy staff of around 1,200 and the large majority of those numbers are what we call locally-employed staff. They’re Russians who work at the embassy. And so my guess is the bulk of the reductions are going to fall on Russians. The Russians are going to lose their jobs. It will slow up some things, my guess is that it’s going to become a longer waiting time to get a visa, but what I suspect the embassy is going to do is it will identify important functions, those functions that are less important, and it will then allocate the reductions so that it can protect core functions and then shed some of the support activities.”
When President Trump signs into law fresh sanctions against Russia, there will likely be further retaliatory measures by Moscow.