US ‘will not hesitate’ to expel Russian diplomats for espionage, Sullivan says

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the US will “not hesitate” to expel additional Russian diplomats from the country for suspected espionage activity after the administration removed 12 Russian officials in February.

Mr Sullivan – addressing NBC’s Meet the Press on 10 April – said the US is “always on the lookout for anyone connected to espionage or spy services” and “will not hesitate to take further action to declare persona non grata to expel, to kick out further Russian quote unquote ‘diplomats’ if we determine they’re spies”.

Meet the Press host Chuck Todd – noting that nearly two dozen European countries recently moved to expel hundreds of Russian diplomats following the country’s bloody invasion of Ukraine – asked Mr Sullivan whether the US plans to remove any of the roughly 400 officials remaining in the US.

“We have, in fact, expelled 12 Russian diplomats, and many of these countries that announced actions this week were catching up to the previous American announcement of expulsions,” Mr Sullivan said.

In February, the US moved to expel those “operatives” for allegedly “engaging in espionage activities” that pose a national security threat, according to the US Mission to the United Nations, noting that such expulsions were in development for several months, not necessarily as a response to the Russian invasion.

“If you look at the way that we do this, every year we take an assessment of who we believe is operating undercover of one of the Russian spy services,” Mr Sullivan said on Sunday. “If we make a determination that someone’s here not as a diplomat but as a spy, we kick them out and we’ll continue to do that.”

Mr Sullivan also told news networks on Sunday that a campaign to isolate Russia from the global economy is likely to result in removing Russia as “one of the world’s major economies because of the economic pressure we have put on them,” he told ABC’s ThisWeek.

Addressing global indications of war crimes in Ukraine, Mr Sullivan said the US has not yet reached a “determination on genocide.”

“The label is less important than the fact that these acts are cruel and criminal and wrong and evil and need to be responded to decisively,” he told CNN’s State of the Union.

“And that is what we are doing,” he added. “We’re doing that not just by supporting international investigations and gathering evidence to hold the perpetrators all the way to the highest levels accountable. We’re doing it by providing sophisticated weapons to the Ukrainians that are making a major difference on the battlefield.”

Mr Sullivan was also pressed on Sunday when US diplomats will return to Kyiv after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken directed embassy personnel to relocate to Lviv, then, a week later, announced that staff would spend nights in Poland.

“We’re working through when we will be in a position to set our diplomatic presence back up in Kyiv,” he told face the nation on CBS. “That’s a judgment that gets worked through our security professionals. They are actively doing that. In the meantime… the United States is surging resources, weapons, military equipment, but also diplomatic resources, to support the Ukrainians.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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