[12/29/16] President Barack Obama announced today that he was expelling from the United States 35 Russian officials (whom he described as “intelligence operatives”), effectively shut two Russian facilities in the United States and vowed that, in addition, he will be taking “a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized.”
“Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election,” Obama said in a written statement.
“In October,” Obama said, “my Administration publicized our assessment that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the U.S. election process. These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. Moreover, our diplomats have experienced an unacceptable level of harassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year. Such activities have consequences.”
“The State Department is also shutting down two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes, and is declaring ‘persona non grata’ 35 Russian intelligence operatives,” Obama said.
Obama, who will leave office on January 20, went on to say that he would take additional actions—some of them secret—and described Russia’s actions as an effort to “interfere with democratic governance.”
In November, Republican candidate Donald Trump defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election. Clinton had previously served as Obama’s secretary of state.
“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities,” Obama said. “We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized. In addition to holding Russia accountable for what it has done, the United States and friends and allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior, and interfere with democratic governance.”
The State Department also issued a statement describing the administration’s actions against Russia.
“The State Department today declared persona non grata 35 Russian officials operating in the United States who were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic or consular status,” said the statement by Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner. “The department also informed the Russian Government that it would deny Russian personnel access to two recreational compounds in the United States owned by the Russian Government.”
“The Department took these actions as part of a comprehensive response to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and to a pattern of harassment of our diplomats overseas that has increased over the last four years, including a significant increase in the last 12 months,” said Toner.
“This harassment has involved arbitrary police stops, physical assault, and the broadcast on State TV of personal details about our personnel that put them at risk,” said Toner.
“In addition,” said Toner, “the Russian Government has impeded our diplomatic operations by, among other actions: forcing the closure of 28 American corners which hosted cultural programs and English-language teaching; blocking our efforts to begin the construction of a new, safer facility for our Consulate General in St. Petersburg; and rejecting requests to improve perimeter security at the current, outdated facility in St. Petersburg.”