President Donald Trump is likely to expel dozens of Russian diplomats in retaliation for the Kremlin’s alleged involvement in a nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent in Britain, according to a media report published Saturday.
Trump agreed to the expulsions after hearing recommendations from advisers, who developed possible responses to the attack in National Security Council meetings on Wednesday and Friday, Bloomberg reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.
The measures are expected to be announced Monday, though officials cautioned that Trump’s decision may not be final.
If the Trump administration boots Russian diplomats, it would mark the second punitive action against Moscow in as many weeks. The White House sanctioned 19 Russian nationals on March 15 for meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
That same day, the White House declared in a statement that it was “highly likely” that Moscow was responsible for the attack on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer living in Britain, and his daughter Yulia.
Administration officials also suggested the sanctions for election meddling would not be the only response to alleged Kremlin activity against Western targets.
White House officials have reportedly been mulling a response to the Skripal incident that would mirror the one taken by British Prime Minister Theresa May, who ordered 23 undeclared Russian spies masquerading as diplomats to leave the U.K.
Trump is prepared to take similar action but wants to be sure European allies will follow suit before doing so, according to the Bloomberg report.
Despite having confronted Moscow with a wide range of economic and military responses, Trump remains under fire from critics who say he is too conciliatory to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The latest round of outrage flared up Wednesday, when Trump congratulated Putin on his recent win in the Russian presidential election before reading briefing notes reminding him not to do so.
Trump immediately dismissed the flurry of criticism, arguing that is important to have a working relationship with the Russian leader even as the diplomatic spat between Washington and Moscow worsens.
“They are wrong!” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing.”
Trump’s much-scrutinized outreach to Putin stands in contrast to his administration’s increasingly hawkish approach to Russia policy.
Notably, Russia hawks now occupy many of the top seats on Trump’s foreign policy team, with Mike Pompeo taking over at the State Department, John Bolton set to become a national security adviser, and Nikki Haley representing Washington in the United Nations.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert spoke on Friday night about Russia in much tougher terms than Trump.
“The United States is considering a range of options to respond to Russia’s outrageous actions in the U.K., both to demonstrate our solidarity with our ally and to hold Russia accountable for its clear breach of international norms and agreements,” she said.
Moscow has denied any involvement in Skripal’s poisoning. The Kremlin announced last week it would respond in kind to Britain’s expulsion of Russian personnel by declaring 23 British diplomats “persona non grata” and closing the British consulate in St. Petersburg.
A version of this story previously appeared on The Daily Caller News Foundation website.
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