By Madhumita Murgia,
Russia’s deputy foreign minister said Sunday that his country was poised to retaliate aggressively against any new U.S. sanctions on Moscow.
“I think retaliation is long, long overdue,” Sergei Ryabkov said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos. “We have a very rich toolbox at our disposal.”
His comments come as Russia announced Friday that it would seize U.S. diplomatic properties and expel scores of U.S. diplomats and other staff members.
The steps were described by Ryabkov as retaliation for the punitive sanctions bill passed by Congress on Thursday, an effort to address Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. On Friday, the White House said President Trump plans to sign the legislation.
“After the Senate . . . voted so overwhelmingly on a completely weird and unacceptable piece of legislation, it was the last drop,” Ryabkov said. “If the U.S. decides to move towards further deterioration, we will respond in kind. We will mirror this, we will retaliate.”
He added, “My whole point is — don’t do this, it’s to the detriment of the interests of the U.S.”
When asked what sort of retaliation the United States could expect, Ryabkov wouldn’t elaborate but added, “I can assure you different options are on the table, and consideration is being given to all sorts of things, both symmetrical and asymmetrical.”
Experts predict it could lead to all-out economic war. “If the bill is approved, and most probably it will be adopted, then we will inevitably enter the stage of what we call the Cold War,” Andrei Sidorov, an expert on international politics at Moscow State University, told The Washington Post last week. “And the Cold War means various responses.”
In a statement on Saturday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “The near unanimous votes for the sanctions legislation in Congress represent the strong will of the American people to see Russia take steps to improve relations with the United States.
“We hope that there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues and these sanctions will no longer be necessary.”
The Russian Embassy in Washington didn’t seem to buy the attempt to make nice, tweeting, “Washington still doesn’t get the fact that pressure never works against @Russia, bilateral relations can hardly be improved by sanctions.”