But it is unclear how much the announcement will affect day-to-day relations. While the Russian news media said 755 diplomats would be barred from working, and presumably expelled, there do not appear to be anything close to 755 American diplomats working in Russia.
That figure almost certainly includes Russian nationals working at the embassy, usually in nonsensitive jobs. (A 2013 State Department inspector generalâs report, the last concrete numbers publicly available, said there were 934 âlocally employedâ staff members at the Moscow Embassy and three consulates, out of 1,279 total staff members. That would leave roughly 345 Americans, many of whom report regular harassment by Russian officials.) And of course there are many nondiplomats working for the United States government in Russia at any given time â experts from departments across the government, from energy to agriculture, and a large station of spies, some working under diplomatic cover.
âOne of Putinâs greatest goals is to assure Russia is treated as if it was still the Soviet Union, a nuclear power that has to be respected and feared,â said Angela Stent, the director of Eurasian, Russian and East European studies at Georgetown University. âAnd he thought he might get that from Trump,â said Ms. Stent, who was the national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia during the administration of George W. Bush.
But now, she added, the Russians look at the chaos in the White House âand see a level of unpredictability there, which makes them nervous.â The reaction, she said, was to retreat to old habits â and the expulsion of diplomats is, of course, one of the oldest.
Those in the administration who served during the Cold War are also returning to that terminology. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told a security conference in Aspen, Colo., this month that he had no doubt that the Russians âare trying to undermine…