The Americans have vented their anger at the Russians, and the Russians have responded. It might now be time to stop the growling and bearing of teeth, and instead work on improving relations between Washington and Moscow.
Russian media reported on Sunday that president Vladimir Putin told almost 800 Americans to get the hell out of Russia. As the Los Angeles Times notes, Putin believes the decision is appropriate and necessary.
“I decided it’s time for us to show we do not intend to leave U.S. actions unanswered,” the Russian leader said in remarks aired in a prime-time evening interview on “Vesti,” a program on Russia’s Channel One.
“U.S. actions unanswered” refers to new sanctions proposed by Congress that are expected to be signed by Donald Trump against the Russians for what the U.S. contends was Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
When the 755 Americans depart Russia on or before Sept. 1, there will be 455 people in the U.S. embassy there; there are 455 Russians currently representing their country at their embassy in Washington. (CNN notes that the exact number of Americans in Russia is not clear, and, therefore, the number who will be booted has not been confirmed by the State Department.) President Obama ordered a large number of Russian diplomats expelled in the waning days of his second term because of the hacking linked to Russia.
Russia’s response is designed to vent Moscow’s outrage, but it is also designed to avoid irreparable damage to its relationship with President Donald Trump.
Putin hasn’t given up entirely on his personal investment in Donald Trump.
Congress is not ready to forgive the annexation of Crimea, nor allow extensive reinvestment in Russian energy. The new sanctions were passed by a coalition of Democrats who blame Mr. Putin for contributing to Hillary Clinton’s defeat and Republicans fearful that their president misunderstands who he is dealing with in Moscow.
Putin is no friend of the U.S. or the West, and there’s no guarantee that he has any interest in stronger relations between his country and the world’s leading democracies. But it is equally clear that Russia has an important place on the world stage. I’m not arguing for a kind-of free pass that erases the damage Putin’s policies have had in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere; however, I am saying that Washington and Moscow working together to solve crises near and far is better than sustaining another Cold War.
Rebuilding trust will take time. Success is not certain. But using convenient rhetoric and propaganda to push a hostile narrative about the two nations serves no purpose other than protecting select fiefdoms.