The White House announced that President Trump will expel 60 Russian intelligence officers from the United States and close the Russian consulate in Seattle in a show of solidarity with allies after the nerve agent attack in the UK.
Forty-eight of the 60 intelligence agents work at the Russian Embassy in Washington, and 12 are based at the UN in New York. The White House has also announced that the Russian consulate in Seattle will be closed due to its proximity to a U.S. submarine base and Boeing.
“The United States takes this action in conjunction with our NATO allies and partners around the world in response to Russia’s use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilizing activities around the world,” said a statement from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “Today’s actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security. With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences. The United States stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government’s behavior.”
The action was taken after the attack with a nerve agent on March 4 that left a former Russian spy and his daughter in critical condition. The U.S. has joined the UK in blaming Russia for the attack in Salisbury, which also seriously injured a police officer. The expulsion of the intelligence officers comes just days after sanctions were levied against Russia for interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Canada, Ukraine and European Union countries have also announced the expulsion of diplomats following the attack. In a statement, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said, “I have found great solidarity from our friends and partners in the EU, North America, Nato and beyond over the past three weeks as we have confronted the aftermath of the Salisbury incident. And together we have sent a message that we will not tolerate Russia’s continued attempts to flout international law and undermine our values.”
The Kremlin has warned it will retaliate in kind and the Russian Embassy in the U.S. launched a poll on Twitter asking which U.S. consulate it should close.