US President Donald Trump will sign legislation imposing sanctions on Russia, the White House says.
The move follows Moscow’s order that the US cut hundreds of diplomatic staff and a warning that it would seize two US diplomatic properties in retaliation for the bill.
The US Senate voted almost unanimously on Thursday to slap new sanctions on Russia, forcing Trump to choose between a tough position on Moscow – effectively dashing his stated hopes for warmer ties – or veto the bill amid investigations into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.
After signing the bill into law, Trump cannot ease the sanctions against Russia unless he seeks congressional approval.
Moscow’s retaliation, announced by the Foreign Ministry on Friday, brought echoes of the Cold War.
If confirmed that Russia’s move would affect hundreds of staff at the US embassy, it would far outweigh the Obama administration’s expulsion of 35 Russians in December.
The legislation was in part a response to conclusions by US intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, and to further punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Late on Friday, the White House issued a statement saying Trump would sign the bill after reviewing the final version. The statement made no reference to Russia’s retaliatory measures.
If Russia seizes the US diplomatic compounds on its soil, it would also be a case of tit-for-tat. The US last year closed two Russian diplomatic compounds its intelligence agencies have long identified as intelligence gathering listening posts. Russia insists they were weekend recreational facillities where its UN diplomats get away from the hurly burly of New York City.
Russia had been threatening retaliation for weeks. Its response suggests it has set aside initial hopes of better ties with Washington under Trump, something the US leader, before he was elected, said he wanted.
Relations were already languishing at a post-Cold War low because of the allegations Russian cyber interference in the election was intended to boost Trump’s chances, something Moscow flatly denies. Trump has denied any collusion between his campaign and Russian officials.
The Russian Foreign Ministry complained of growing anti-Russian feeling in the United States, accusing “well-known circles” of seeking “open confrontation”.
President Vladimir Putin had warned on Thursday Russia would have to retaliate against what he called boorish US behaviour.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on Friday the Senate vote was the last straw.