Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov complained Monday that the U.S. decision to block Russia’s access to two compounds in the U.S. was “robbery,” and said members of President Trump’s national security team are not behaving like “decent and well brought-up people” because they have failed to restore that access.
“It is robbery in broad daylight,” Lavrov said of the compound seizures, according to state-run media.
Russia has protested the seizure of the U.S.-based compounds, which American officials say were used by Russian spy agencies, ever since then-President Barack Obama ordered their confiscation in December in retaliation for the 2016 election interference. They delayed retaliating over the sanctions in the expectation that Trump’s team would reverse the sanctions, but Lavrov’s comments reveal intensifying impatience with the new administration.
“It turns out that some tough guys are commenting on this situation,” Lavrov said in response to reports that the administration would not surrender the compounds without extracting other concessions from Russia. “Decent and well brought-up people do not behave in such way.”
One of Trump’s assistants, explaining that the administration “want[s] to give collaboration and cooperation a chance,” said last week that Trump’s team is considering a return of the compounds.
“If we can see acts of good faith come out of the Kremlin with regards to things such as a cease-fire, then perhaps there is a chance for what [Secretary of State] Rex Tillerson wants to see happen, which is an improvement in relations between our two capitals,” Trump deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka told CNN.
That’s not good enough for Lavrov.
“I am confident that there are men of sense in the Trump administration who are perfectly aware that the decision to seize the diplomatic property and eject 35 diplomats with their families was taken by the Obama administration in a state of agony, when it didn’t know how to ruin our relations with Washington in such a way as to prevent the Trump administration from repairing them,” he said.
Obama’s team designed its 2016 sanctions in order make it politically painful for Trump, who had long cast doubt on claims that Russia was behind the cyberattacks against the Democratic party, to reverse the sanctions upon taking office.
“If a future president decided that he wanted to allow in a large tranche of Russian intelligence agents, presumably a future president could invite that action,” an Obama administration official told reporters during a briefing on the sanctions. “We think it would be inadvisable … these diplomatic compounds were being used for intelligence purposes. That is a direct challenge to U.S. national security, and I don’t think it would make much sense to reopen Russian intelligence compounds.”