The letter refers to Russia's decision in August to prohibit any locally hired staff from working at the U.S. Embassy except for guards, a move that forced the diplomatic mission in Moscow to lay off scores of employees and dozens of contractors.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has urged President Joe Biden to increase staffing at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and to expel Russian diplomats from Washington if Moscow doesn’t cooperate.
The move, which would mark a sharp escalation in an ongoing dispute over embassy staffing, was suggested by the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In a letter to Biden, the senators expressed concern that recent actions taken by Russia, which resulted in a reduction of U.S. Embassy staff in Moscow, presented a national security risk and impacted the embassy’s ability to operate.
The letter refers to Russia’s decision in August to prohibit any locally hired staff from working at the U.S. Embassy except for guards.
The move forced the mission to let go of 182 employees and dozens of contractors, the State Department said at the time.
The letter, which has been signed by Senator Bob Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey), Senator Mark Warner (Democrat-Virginia), Senator Jim Risch (Republican-Idaho) and Senator Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida), notes that, while Russia currently has more than 400 diplomats spread throughout the United States, the U.S. has only about 100 in Russia.
"This disproportionality in diplomatic representation is unacceptable," the senators said.
It said Russia must issue enough visas "to approach parity" between the number of U.S. diplomats serving in Russia vis-a-vis the number of Russian diplomats serving in the United States.
"If such action is not taken, we urge you to begin expelling Russian diplomats to bring the U.S. diplomatic presence to parity," the letter said.
The letter estimates this would mean the expulsion of as many as 300 Russian diplomats.
With reporting by Reuters