The Russian government announced on Friday that it would expel 10 American diplomats and ban eight current and former U.S. officials from entering the country, in what it said was retaliation for a long-expected suite of sanctions issued by the Biden administration Thursday.
Among the officials Moscow is banning are Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Director of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, director of the U.S Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice and director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons Michael Carvajal, according to a statement released by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The list also includes U.S. officials who have left government – former President Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, and former director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey, who served in the Clinton administration.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said at a press conference that Moscow would also place restrictions on the activities of U.S. non-governmental organizations on its territory, calling Washington’s measures “hostile” and “unprovoked.”
The relatively measured response, however, suggested Russia was heeding President Biden’s repeated appeals to forestall “a cycle of escalation and conflict.”
In public remarks at the White House on Thursday, President Biden said he “chose to be proportionate” in an effort to forge a “stable and predictable” relationship with Moscow. Mr. Biden said he told the Russian president that their direct communication was “essential,” and proposed an in-person summit in a European country this summer.
“Our teams are discussing that possibility right now,” Mr. Biden said.
On Thursday the administration announcedon 32 individuals and entities in response to Russian actions it said were “against U.S. sovereignty and interests,” including Moscow’s interference in the 2020 presidential election. It expelled 10 Russian officials from Washington, D.C., formally attributed the SolarWinds espionage campaign to the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, and announced a bolstered cyber defense partnership with Western allies.
In public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, U.S. intelligence officials said that Russia had likely been expecting a response. Haines testified that there would “probably be a certain amount of tit for tat,” but said the intelligence community had assessed that Moscow did not want direct conflict with the U.S.
Lt. General Scott Berrier, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified that Russia’s build-up of military troops along the Ukrainian border and in Crimea had given Moscow the ability to conduct a limited attack, though its intentions remained unclear.
“They have placed themselves in a posture where it’s given them options,” he said. “If they choose to retaliate in any way, they have a number of different force arrays in Crimea and Ukraine where they could lash out and do something as a message to the Ukraine to the United States or to the NATO alliance.”