The United States has taken a major diplomatic offensive against Russia by expelling 10 diplomats and slapping additional sanctions. The move comes amid simmering US-Russia tensions over alleged interference by Kremlin and massive cyber attacks that targeted the US.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order announcing fresh sanctions on Russia that included curbs on US banks trading in Russian government debt. As per the order, US banks will be banned from trading in fresh Russian state debt from June 14.
He also ordered the expulsion of 10 diplomats, citing alleged spy activities. The US also sanctioned 32 Russians who are accused of meddling in the 2020 presidential election.
The White House said Biden's move sends a signal that the US is ready to impose 'costs in a strategic and economically impactful manner on Russia if it continues or escalates its destabilizing international action."
Interestingly, Biden's move came days after he offered to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This had followed Biden's comments last month in which he referred to Putin as a killer. The remark had elicited an angry response from the Kremlin.
Biden had answered "I do" to the question of whether he considered Putin a "killer." Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said of the remark: "There has never been anything like it in history." He described US-Russian relations as "very bad" and accused Biden of showing no interest in improving the relationship.
Backdrop of Ukraine Tensions
Interestingly, Biden tried to tone down the ramification of the latest sanctions against Russia by saying that the US is looking for a stable relationship. "The United States is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia ... We want a stable, predictable relationship," the President said at the White House on Thursday, agencies reported.
Biden spoke by phone with Putin on Tuesday to discuss a range of issues, from arms control to cyberattacks and fresh worries over the amassing of Russian troops on the Ukraine border, a statement said, DPA news reported. The US president suggested their meeting take place "in a third country."
As per the new sanctions order, US says Russia indulges in a range of anti-US activities that include tampering with US elections, cyberattack and bribing to influence foreign governments, AFP reported.
Russian Intelligence Agency Accused of Conducting Cyberattacks
Also in a crucial move, the White House accused Russian foreign intelligence service, the SVR, of organizing cyberattacks on US interests. The White House said the new sanctions were in response to malicious cyber activities against the United States and its allies and partners". It was the first time that the US was holding the SVR responsible for attacks against it. In reply, the SVR said the accusation is nonsensical.