Russian harassment of US diplomats continues
Russian harassment of American diplomats in Moscow has "increased significantly" over the past two years, according to the State Department, following reports that two American personnel were drugged at a conference last year.The US could respond by ratcheting up the pressure on Russia by cutting off their credit cards making commerce outside it borders very difficult. Obama thinks he can get cooperation by modulating the pain, but it clearly is not working.
"We remain troubled by the way our diplomatic and consular staff have been treated over the past two years," State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters Monday. "We have raised our concerns at the highest levels. In particular, the harassment and surveillance of our diplomatic personnel in Moscow by security personnel and traffic police has increased significantly. As we said before, we find this unacceptable."
Trudeau declined to comment on reports of the drugging incident, but the broader complaint about the targeting of diplomatic staff adds a personal edge to the widening rift between U.S. and Russian foreign policy. The State Department issued the rebuke at a briefing dominated by the suspension of talks over the Syrian civil war and Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to withdraw from a nuclear arms reduction treaty.
"I think what you see is that in areas where we have commonalities, areas where we can work with Russia, we continue to do so," she said. "However, we do have sharp differences with Russia, certainly on Syria, on Ukraine, on this [plutonium treaty] issue right now where we can work with Russia to benefit the international security and also to increase our own national security [and] we will continue to do so."
Putin wants to change that dynamic, however, by requiring the United States to tolerate his aggression in Ukraine, for instance, in exchange for cooperation on other policy issues. In addition to canceling the treaty, Putin demanded that the United States drop sanctions that were imposed in response to his annexation of Crimea and destabilization of eastern Ukraine and cut the U.S. military's presence in NATO countries.
"The step Russia has been forced to take is not intended to worsen relations with the United States," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement accompanying the treaty cancellation, per Reuters."We want Washington to understand that you cannot, with one hand, introduce sanctions against us where it can be done fairly painlessly for the Americans, and with the other hand continue selective cooperation in areas where it suits them."