UPDATED 3:40 PM PT – Friday, April 16, 2021
The Biden administration said it’s expelling a number of Russian diplomats and imposing sanctions on several companies in response to actions it says the Kremlin made against the U.S.
According to reports, the sanctions were meant as punitive action against Moscow after Russia allegedly interfered in the 2020 presidential election. It also came in response to the massive SolarWinds hack blamed on Russian intelligence agencies.
“Today, I have approved several steps, including expulsion of several Russian officials as a consequence of their actions,” Joe Biden said. “I’ve also signed an executive order authorizing new measures, including sanctions, to address specific harmful actions that Russia has taken against U.S. interests.”
According to Joe Biden, the U.S. is not looking to escalate tensions with Russia, however, if Russia seeks to “violate the U.S., it will respond.”
“The United States is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia,” Biden added. “We want a stable, predictable relationship and if Russia continues to interfere with our democracy, I’m prepared to take further action to respond.”
The sanctions expelled 10 Russian diplomats from the U.S. and targeted six Russian companies that supported cyber efforts in the SolarWinds hack. Thirty-two additional individuals and entities were also named and accused of trying to influence the election and spreading disinformation.
There is no evidence, however, that Russia or any other influence changed votes or manipulated the outcome of the election.
The White House did emphasize the sanctions were not in response to a report that claimed Russia had paid the Taliban to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In response, the Kremlin condemned the sanctions, saying President Vladimir Putin had not yet decided what action he would take.
“Our approach regarding the sanctions can not change,” Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said. “We condemn any such aspirations of sanctions. We consider them illegal, and in any case, the principle of reciprocity is still in place — reciprocity in such a way that we can best ensure our own interests.”
Officials said they were upset the White House announced the sanctions just two days after Biden spoke with Putin. They emphasized the need for a summit and a desire to normalize relations.
Both Biden and the Kremlin said they were warned, however, that measures were coming.
Russian citizens said the relationship between the two countries is getting worse and added, dialogue between the two leaders is needed to find the roots of the conflict.
“We need to approach this issue diplomatically, to initiate meetings between the two heads of our states,” Moscow resident Evgeniy Chirkov said. “I’ve heard that Putin and Biden will be meeting on the neutral territory. So yes, to meet and to find compromises in the relationship between our countries.”
According to experts, Putin will consider the impact of the sanctions, but the action is not likely to cause him to make a 180 degree pivot in behavior.