The Russian government announced Friday that it would seize U.S. diplomatic properties and kick out a large number of U.S. diplomats, effectively ending hopes for the fresh start with Moscow that President Trump came into office promising to seek.
The action, in response to a sanctions bill passed by Congress, signaled a loss of patience by Russian President Vladimir Putin with the Trump administration’s ability to change the bilateral relationship, as the legislation handcuffs Trump’s power to lift the punitive measures taken by the United States in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Now Trump has a difficult decision to make.
He can veto the law as a signal to Moscow of his continuing interest in rapprochement, while knowing Congress will easily override his action. He can sign the bill, acknowledging that his goal of better relations with Moscow is on ice. Or he could do nothing and simply let the law take effect.
The Russian expulsion order could affect scores or even hundreds of diplomats and other embassy staff — and officials in Moscow had recently indicated that the measure was imminent.