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US-Russia clash must not get out of hand

We must hope that the ongoing exchange of angry diplomatic moves between the United States and Russia will not deteriorate into something truly serious and dangerous for the world as in the past when the US and the Soviet Union threatened each other with thousands of nuclear missiles.

Last Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on the US to cut its embassy and consular staff in Russia by 755. Only 455 will be allowed to stay in US diplomatic offices in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, and Yekaterinburg.

Putin ordered the Americans out three days after the US Congress voted overwhelmingly to impose sweeping sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea, but mostly Russia for its interference in the recent US elections, its annexation of Crimea in the Ukraine, its support for the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the five-year Syrian war, and its involvement in efforts undermining world cyber security.

There is a strong political undercurrent in the US Congress move. It goes head-on against President Donald Trump’s policy of closer relations with President Putin and Russia. And it has taken place amid an ongoing investigation by a Special Counsel of the Justice Department on charges that Russia interfered in the US election in favor of Trump.

There was talk that Trump might veto the sanctions bill approved by Congress but it was approved so overwhelmingly – the House vote was 419-3 while the Senate vote was 98-2 for an earlier bill without North Korea. A veto would put Trump squarely against a US Congress decision which, in the words of Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, was “a clear message to President Putin in behalf of the American people and our allies.

The local political implications are grim and ominous for the Trump administration, which is under fire over a meeting between Trump campaigners, including his own son Donald Jr., with Russians offering campaign material against Trump’s election adversary, Hillary Clinton.

But for the rest of the world, the greater concern, is: Where will the ongoing US-Russia conflict lead to? There has been a steady rise in peace initiatives since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 with the US and Russia, along with the NATO nations and the former Warsaw Pact nations, now working closely together.

The recent incidents – the charges of Russian interference in US elections, the US Congress’ sweeping sanctions against Russia, and President Putin’s swift reaction ordering most of America’s embassy staff out of Russia – have grave implications for the world’s continued security and stability. We hope ensuing events will not get out of hand.