MOSCOW (CBS) Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that his country would not expel U.S. diplomats in response to a new round of U.S. sanctions.
In a statement, Putin called the American sanctions a “provocation” and “aimed at undermining the future of Russian-American relations.” He said he would wait to see what Donald Trump’s administration does once the president-elect takes office on January 20.
The United States was unleashing a string of punitive measures against Russia amid allegations that it engaged in cyber-meddling in the U.S. presidential campaign, putting pressure on President-elect Donald Trump not to let Moscow off the hook after he takes office.
He said the response wasn’t over and the U.S. could take further, covert action - a thinly veiled reference to a counterstrike in cyberspace the U.S. has been considering.
Yet the sanctions could easily be pulled back by Trump, who has insisted that Obama and Democrats are merely attempting to delegitimize his election.
As part of the punishment leveled against Moscow, the U.S. kicked out 35 Russian diplomats, in response to Russia’s harassment of U.S. diplomats. They also shut down Russian recreational compounds in New York and Maryland that U.S. officials said were being used for intelligence.
It was the strongest action the Obama administration has taken to date to retaliate for a cyber attack, and more comprehensive than last year’s sanctions on North Korea after it hacked Sony Pictures Entertainment. The new penalties add to existing U.S. sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which have impaired Russia’s economy but had limited impact on President Vladimir Putin’s behavior.
Russia called the penalties a clumsy yet aggressive attempt to “harm Russian-American ties.” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia would take into account the fact that Trump will soon replace Obama as it drafts retaliatory measures.
U.S. relations with Russia have suffered during Obama’s years in office as he and Putin tussled over Ukraine, Edward Snowden and Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.