The Russian government officially classified the United States as a “hostile country” on Friday in retaliation for new US sanctions last month.
Moscow’s new ordinance approves “the attached list of foreign states committing unfriendly actions against the Russian Federation, citizens of the Russian Federation or Russian legal persons,” according to one translation. Despite a large group of candidate countries with which Moscow has had high-profile grievances in recent years, the final list includes only two countries: the United States and the Czech Republic, which has quarreled with Russia in recent years to following an explosion in one of its weapons depots in 2104 and last month expelled more than a dozen Russian diplomats. Moscow denies any involvement.
The Kremlin did not immediately clarify the deliberative process that led to the country selection, but it aligns with the wishes of Russian President Vladimir Putin from the instructions he gave to the legislature after signaling his interest for the creation of such a list last month.
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Despite its disturbing connotations, however, the new classification may be more symbolic than substance. In practice, this only limits the extent to which countries can hire Russian nationals at their embassies in Moscow and other diplomatic facilities. The Czech Republic is now limited to a maximum of 19 workers. The United States can no longer hire them.
And to put the selections in context, Russia did not name on the list Ukraine – which is home to an ongoing war with Russian separatists backed by Moscow – and Poland, the site of increased activity in the world. NATO in recent years in an attempt to deter what the alliance considers Russian provocations. The two countries were previously among those that Russian officials have historically viewed as hostile.
The Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The classification comes amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, particularly following U.S. intelligence assessments that Russian agents were behind serious cyber attacks on federal government servers, including one identified by the last year under the name SolarWinds, the name of the company that hackers exploited to gain access. More recently, a seemingly Russian cyber-criminal gang known as DarkSide attacked the networks of a key fuel pipeline that serves 50 percent of the supply to the US east coast.
Moscow has denied any involvement in the incidents. The Biden administration responded by imposing new sanctions on Russia and expelling diplomats from its embassy in Washington. President Joe Biden himself has invited Putin to meet in an attempt to reduce tensions.
Russian leaders have previously expressed the need to generate a list of hostile countries and highlight what they perceive to be US aggression. imposed on Russia at the time.
Following criticism of the poisoning of a former double agent by Russian agents, Moscow in 2018 encouraged its citizens to return home from what it considered “hostile countries”.