US Democratic and Republican senators on Tuesday urged President Joe Biden to expel 300 Russian diplomats from the United States if Moscow stops issuing visas for Americans to represent Washington in Russia.
The suggestion from the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees — Democrats Bob Menendez and Mark Warner and Republicans Jim Risch and Marco Rubio — would sharply escalate an ongoing dispute over embassy staff amid of tensions between Washington and Moscow.
Russia in August banned the US embassy in Moscow from detaining, recruiting or recruiting Russian or third-country personnel, excluding security guards, and forced the mission to let go of 182 employees and dozens of contractors, said the State Department.
That meant there are only about 100 American diplomats in Russia, compared to 400 Russian diplomats in the United States, the senators said.
“This disproportionality in diplomatic representation is unacceptable. Accordingly, Russia must issue sufficient visas to approach parity between the number of US diplomats in Russia and the number of Russian diplomats in the United States,” the senators wrote in a letter to Biden.
If Moscow doesn’t, they said Biden should start expelling as many as 300 Russian diplomats.
The White House and the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.