The Russian government has expelled two U.S. diplomats, according to a recent announcement. The expulsion comes just a few weeks after having their own diplomats kicked out of U.S. territory. What started as a bizarre assault in Moscow still seems to be escalating into a tit-for-tat diplomatic face-off. In the meantime, NATO is sending troops to reinforce Poland and ease fears of threats from the Kremlin.
According to ABC News, it all started June 6, when this happened.
The man being tackled by the Russian guard is a U.S. diplomat, and a CIA operative according to Russian statements. He’s seen in this CCTV video trying to make a quick dash to the embassy when the guard runs out, grabs him and forces him to the ground. The diplomat then slowly makes his way to the U.S. embassy, which is protected American territory.
The video was broadcast on NTV in Russia last week.
U.S. officials say the video is real, and the State department is in possession of its own from the embassy’s cameras.
The Russian foreign minister insists that the guard was right to tackle the man. Sergey Ryabkov (pictured above), the Russian deputy foreign minister, called the American diplomat a “night-time hooligan” and claims that he was coming back from an intelligence operation.
The foreign ministry also claimed that the man punched the guard when he tried to ask for identification.
Washington had a very different view. State Department spokesman John Kirby referred to it as a “beating” according to USA Today, insisting that the tackle was “unprovoked and it endangered the safety of our employee.”
He added that the American was “an accredited U.S. diplomat.” Kirby refused to go into details, but expressed frustration at the way the State Department employees are being treated.
“We are extremely troubled by the way our employees have been treated over the past couple of years and we’ve raised those concerns at the highest levels. Harassment and surveillance of our diplomatic personnel in Moscow by security personnel and by traffic police have increased significantly and we find this absolutely unacceptable.”
On June 17, U.S. officials expelled two Russian diplomats in retaliation.
The Kremlin responded in kind, sending home the diplomat in the video and one other official who was also accused of being a CIA operative, according to a recent announcement. A statement citing Ryabkov called for America to end its path of escalation.
“We hope that they in Washington will realize all the viciousness of the aggressive anti-Russia line. If they decide there to move on the path of escalation, they won’t be left without a response.”
The tackle and subsequent expulsions are hardly the first incidents to happen between the two countries’ diplomatic corps. In late June, U.S. State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau claimed that harassment of U.S. diplomats is a “long-standing” issue with Russia.
In the initial reporting from the Washington Post, back on June 29, the Russian guard was identified as a member of the Russian Federal Security Service, the successor agency to the KGB. Trudeau has said the harassment is largely coming from the host government service, an apparent reference to the security services.
The spokesperson also noted that the U.S. government revoked its acceptance of five or six honorary consul members from Russia because of the harassment.
In the meantime, Barack Obama announced that Poland will be the headquarters for a new armored brigade, according to the Wall Street Journal, an attempt to bolster NATO defenses against Russia. The brigade will consist of tanks and other armored vehicles and will make nine-month rotations through NATO’s eastern flank.
Diplomats being expelled from Russia and accusations of spying are just the latest signs of worsening relations, amid the backdrop of strengthening military positions.
[Photo by Alexander Vilf / Host Photo Agency/Ria Novosti via Getty Images]