Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for August 12, 2017

Newsline: Trump says was being ‘sarcastic’ in thanking Putin for embassy staff cuts

President Donald Trump said on Friday he was being sarcastic when he thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for saving the United States money by ordering cuts in U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia. Asked whether he was being sarcastic, Trump told reporters: “In order to reduce our payroll, absolutely. I think you know that,” Trump said without explicitly criticizing the move. Breaking nearly two weeks of silence on Putin’s July 30 order cutting U.S. embassy and consulate staff by nearly two thirds, Trump said on Thursday: “I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” adding “there’s no real reason for them to go back.” Trump’s remarks rekindled criticism of his kid-glove handling of Putin, especially as he has not shied away from being highly critical of members of his own party, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Putin, reacting to new sanctions imposed by the U.S. Congress and reluctantly signed into law by Trump, ordered Washington to cut its diplomatic and technical staff by 755 people by Sept. 1. Many of those affected likely will be local Russian staffers. It was also a reaction to former President Barack Obama expelling 35 Russian diplomats from the United States last December over the intelligence agency reports.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-diplomats-sarcasm-idUSKBN1AR24L

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Newsline: Foreign minister warns US embassy not to meddle in Russian regional elections

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warned Washington on Friday against trying to meddle in next month’s Russian regional elections. “I do not know what plans the U.S. embassy has, ​​but there were many episodes when American diplomats were seen in illegal activities,” Lavrov said, the state-owned TASS news agency reported. “The relevant services should take appropriate measures.” Lavrov, who was on a visit to Russia’s Vladimir region, said the American embassy employs many Russian citizens. According to the Vienna Convention, he noted, the embassy staff in Russia can only employ technical workers, like drivers, typists, stenographers, and cannot engage in “diplomatic activities, including political aspects.” “But it was not uncommon for U.S. embassy staff to travel to different regions on the spot, conduct public inquiries: how they relate to the governor, in general to the federal center,” he said. “In such situations, we politely ask our American colleagues to terminate these people’s contracts.” He also cast his warnings against a backdrop of charges by U.S. intelligence services that Russia used cyber activity and spread of disinformation to undermine the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. “I hope that after all the unfounded accusations against us — because not a single fact was presented within 10 months — all the intensity over this topic by the American establishment will force them to think again,” Lavrov said. “But if this happens, we have our laws, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which prescribes very specifically what diplomats can do and what not,” he said. Lavrov said. “We will follow it and our laws.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/08/11/russian-foreign-minister-sergei-lavrov-warns-u-s-not-meddle-russian-elections/559071001/