‘The Kremlin has to be confused’: U.S. expels Russians despite Trump’s warm words for Putin

'The Kremlin has to be confused': U.S. expels Russians despite Trump's warm words for Putin thumbnail

In the wake of a suspected nerve-gas attack on a former Russian spy in Britain, the White House is taking action. All that’s missing are words from the U.S. president.

The Trump administration announced Monday it would be expelling 60 Russian diplomats, which officials called “intelligence operatives,” as part of a co-ordinated Western response to the nerve-gas attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Julia, in Salisbury, England. The statement came from the White House press office, but not U.S. President Donald Trump himself.

As the White House continues punishing Russia — imposing a fresh round of sanctions last week and expelling diplomats this week — the diplomatic action is so far lacking any explicit condemnation of Putin from Trump himself. White House officials say Trump personally ordered the diplomats out. But he hasn’t made any expressly anti-Russian remarks.

On the expulsions list this week are 48 Russian embassy staff and 12 diplomats from the United Nations. The U.S. will also close Moscow’s diplomatic outpost in Seattle. That’s a start, said Brett Bruen, a former White House director of global engagement who led an inter-agency task force to combat Russian propaganda.

Failure to act at all would have been treated as a “green light” for the Kremlin to continue, he said. “This — simply putting diplomats and spies on a plane — will be treated as a yellow light.”

That is to say, it might be regarded as a standard response from the U.S. and European allies putting the Russians on notice and possibly slowing some bad behaviour, Bruen said, but probably not an action that will “significantly deter” Putin.

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