Russia’s deputy foreign minister said his country’s retaliation over U.S. actions against Russia was “overdue” and that the Kremlin will consider “symmetrical or asymmetrical” responses to new sanctions passed by Congress.
“I think this retaliation is long, long overdue,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday about the Kremlin’s action Friday demanding a cut in the number of American diplomats in Russia and seizing two U.S. facilities.
When the U.S. Senate on Thursday “voted so overwhelmingly on a completely weird and unacceptable piece of legislation, it was the last drop,” he said.
A new sanctions bill against Russia, Iran and North Korea cleared Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, by a 98-2 vote in the Senate and 419-3 in the House. The legislation now awaits President Trump‘s signature, and in a statement Friday night the White House said Trump “approves the bill and intends to sign it.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, promised last week to retaliate if the United States issued new sanctions, saying, according to Reuters, “We are exercising restraint and patience, but at some moment we’ll have to retaliate.”
And on Friday, the Kremlin acted, ordering a cut in the number of U.S. diplomats in Russia and seizing two American facilities in the country — a recreational country house outside Moscow and a storage facility in the Russian capital.
Ryabkov said on “This Week” that “if the U.S. side decides to move further towards further deterioration we will answer, we will respond in kind. We will mirror this. We will retaliate.”
As to how the Kremlin might respond, he said, “We have a very rich toolbox at our disposal. It would be ridiculous on my part to start speculating on what may or may not happen.”
He added, “I can assure you that different options are on the table and consideration is being given to all sorts of things, both symmetrical or assymetrical, to use a very popular word in the world of diplomacy.””
Raddatz also asked Ryabkov if Russia provided damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton to the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.
He did not answer directly, saying, “All the information which we provide to anyone can be easily found in open sources.”
Ryabkov added, “We are not doing anything to the detriment of the domestic developments or internal affairs of any country, the U.S. included. The very fact that someone saw some Russian, a Russian somewhere, is not close to a criminal act, I think it’s ridiculous, it’s degrading for such a great country as the United States.”
Raddatz reminded the Kremlin official of his saying in November that Russia had contacts with the Trump campaign during the election.
“What kind of contacts, and who were you talking about?” she asked.
“You have all the names,” Ryabkov responded. “You have to go through all the hearings and all the material which is available by now for the Congress.”
Despite the ongoing probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Ryabkov said he is optimistic that the U.S. and Russia have room to begin building a better relationship.
“I believe there are several areas where the U.S. and Russia can and should work together cooperatively. Nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, countering terrorism, illicit immigration, trafficking in people, climate change, you name it,” Ryabkov said.
“We are ready, we are stretching our hand forward, we are hopeful that someone on the other side, President Trump included, but also others may see here a chance for a somewhat different way,” he added.