MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow will order 10 US diplomats to leave Russia in a retaliatory response to the US sanctions.

Lavrov also said that Moscow will add eight US officials to its sanctions list and move to restrict and stop the activities of US nongovernment organisations from interfering in Russia’s politics.

He added that while Russia has a possibility to take painful measures against the American business in Russia, it wouldn’t immediately move to do that The moves follow a barrage of new sanctions on Russia announced this week by the Biden administration.

Hit by a barrage of new sanctions this week from the Biden administration, the Kremlin is carefully weighing its response in a tense showdown with the United States.

While the US wields the power to cripple the Russian economy, Moscow lacks levers to respond in kind, although it potentially could hurt American interests in many other ways around the globe.

Despite its heated rhetoric, Moscow will likely refrain from raising the stakes too high, for now, to avoid provoking even harder-hitting punitive measures from the US, but some observers predict that Russia and China will quickly edge closer to coordinate their policies amid the growing US pressure.

Russia has denied interfering in the 2020 US presidential election and involvement in the SolarWind hack of federal agencies the activities punished by the latest US sanctions. The Russian Foreign Ministry warned of an inevitable retaliation, charging that Washington should realize that it will have to pay a price for the degradation of bilateral ties.

The US on Thursday ordered 10 Russian diplomats expelled, targeted dozens of companies and people, and imposed new curbs on Russia’s ability to borrow money. Pundits predicted Moscow would almost certainly respond in kind to the expulsions but would refrain from any other significant moves to avoid a further escalation.

President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy aide, Yuri Ushakov, invited US Ambassador John Sullivan on Friday to tell him about the Russian response, but the Kremlin wouldn’t say what measures he announced.

Russia’s economic potential and its global reach are limited compared with the Soviet Union that competed with the US for international influence during the Cold War. Still, Russia’s nuclear arsenal and its leverage in many parts of the world make it a power that Washington needs to reckon with.

Aware of that, President Joe Biden called for de-escalating tensions and held the door open for cooperation with Russia in certain areas. Biden said he told Putin in Tuesday’s call that he chose not to impose tougher sanctions for now and proposed to meet in a third country in the summer.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the summit offer was being analysed.

While the new US sanctions further limited Russia’s ability to borrow money by banning US financial institutions from buying Russian government bonds directly from state institutions, they didn’t target the secondary market.

It’s very important that there’re no sanctions on secondary debt because that means that non-US persons can buy the debt and sell it to the US persons, said Tom Adshead, director of research at Macro-Advisory Ltd, an analytics and advisory company.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2021

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