July 31, 2017
Joshua Yaffa wrote for the New Yorker about what kind of message Putin's actions against American diplomats in Russia sends to President Trump:
Vladimir Putin’s announcement on Sunday that he would require a dramatic reduction in the U.S. diplomatic mission to Russia is a personal message to Donald Trump—at once a last-ditch effort to gain some conciliations from a U.S. President who had promised them and an indication of how, despite early hopes in Moscow, Putin and those around him are gearing up for a more familiar, confrontational pose with Washington. The Kremlin’s thinking appears to be that if the United States is so intent on demonizing it, then, fine, let it have its Cold War—and anyway, mutual antagonism has come to be a comfortable, even habitual mode for the Putin state.
In an interview on Russian state television, Putin expressed frustration with the continued attempts by the U.S. to punish or otherwise apply pressure on Russia, most recently with Congress’s vote last week to enshrine Obama-era sanctions into law, making it harder for Trump to undo them. Putin suggested that his patience had worn thin. “We waited for quite a long time that, perhaps, something will change for the better. We held out hope that the situation would somehow change,” he said. “But, judging by everything, if it changes, it will not be soon.” In response, he announced, Russia would order the United States to cut the number of staff at U.S. diplomatic missions in the country by seven hundred and fifty-five people, a reduction of more than sixty per cent from current levels.