WASHINGTON, August 10. /TASS/. US President Donald Trump on Thursday said he was thankful to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the decision to cut the number of US diplomats in Russia.
"I want to thank him [Putin] because we're trying to cut down our payroll, and as far as I'm concerned I'm very thankful that he let go a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll," Trump said.
"There's no real reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we've been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We're going to save a lot of money," he added.
On July 28, the Russian foreign ministry demanded that by September 1 Washington reduce the number of diplomatic and technical staff at the US embassy in Moscow and its consulates general in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, in order to match the number of Russian diplomatic personnel working in the United States. It means that the total number of US diplomatic personnel is to be cut to 455. In case the US takes further unilateral steps to cut Russian diplomatic staff, retaliatory measures will follow, the Russian foreign ministry warned.
In a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on July 28, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that Moscow’s decision was triggered by a series of Washington’s hostile steps, including "illegal sanctions against Russia, calumny against it, mass expulsion of diplomats and seizure of our diplomatic property." He added that Moscow’s "limited and absolutely adequate measures" should not be seen "as an ‘eye for eye’ response but as a forced step" in line with the international practice.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said Washington was considering a response and would announce it by September 1.