Early Monday morning, the Trump Administration announced that is expelling 60 Russian diplomats in response to the attempted murder of an ex-Russian spy in the United Kingdom, effective immediately. The Administration also said it would be shuttering Russia’s consulate in Seattle over concerns that Russian officials there spied on a nearby U.S. Navy base and on a Boeing research and development facility.
According to NBC News, the move was accompanied by harsh words from the White House, suggesting not just that the expelled diplomats were “cloaked” members of a vast Russian intelligence network, but the U.S. was taking action “in response to Russia’s use of military grade chemical weapons on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in this ongoing pattern of destabilizing activities around the world.”
Trump officials also cautioned that they are aware of and are addressing the “‘unacceptably numerous’ Russian intelligence officers who reside in the United States and spy on Americans.”
Trump’s announcement was the first of several; Germany, the Czech Republic, France, and 11 other countries also announced that they were expelling Russian diplomats in order to send the message that they know about the Kremlin’s intelligence gathering efforts.
The collaborative effort to punish Russia comes in the wake of the attempted murder of a former Russian spy-turned-double agent for the British, Sergei Skripal, who was found passed out on a park earlier in March, along with his daughter. Both had been poisoned with a “Soviet-era nerve agent” in what the U.K. is calling a coordinated attack by the Kremlin.
Skripal was a top target for Putin. After being caught and charged with espionage in 2006, Skripal “passed the identity of dozens of spies to the U.K.’s MI6 foreign intelligence agency.” He was freed in 2010, and, of course, feared for his safety.
The Russians are, of course, not happy, but in true modern fashion, instead of a statement, the government responded on Twitter, asking its followers which U.S. embassy the Russian government should shutter in kind.
— Russia in USA (@RusEmbUSA) March 26, 2018
So far, most Twitter users want Russia to boot the U.S. out of St. Petersburg.