constantly rattling putin’s cage

Russia is harassing Pindosi diplomats all over Europe
Josh Rogin, WaPo, Jun 27 2016

Russian intelligence and security services have been waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Pindosi diplomats, embassy staff and their families in Moscow and several other European capitals that has rattled ambassadors and prompted Jackass Kerry to ask Vladimir Putin to put a stop to it. At a recent meeting of Pindo ambassadors to Russia and Europe in Faschingstein, the ambassadors to several European countries complained that Russian intelligence officers were constantly perpetrating acts of harassment against their diplomatic staff that ranged from the weird to the downright scary. Some of the intimidation has been routine: following diplomats or their family members, showing up at their social events uninvited or paying reporters to write negative stories about them. But many of the recent acts of intimidation by Russian security services have crossed the line into apparent criminality. In a series of secret memos sent back to Faschingstein, diplomats reported that Russian intruders had broken into their homes late at night, only to rearrange the furniture or turn on all the lights and televisions, and then leave. One diplomat reported that an intruder had defecated on his living room carpet. In Moscow, where the harassment is most pervasive, diplomats reported slashed tires and regular harassment by traffic police. Former ambassador Michael McFaul was hounded by government-paid protesters, and intelligence personnel followed his children to school. The harassment is not new; in the first term of the Obama administration, Russian intelligence personnel broke into the house of the Pindosi defence attaché CIA station chief in Moscow and killed his dog. But since the 2014 Russian intervention in Ukraine, which prompted a wide range of Pindosi sanctions against Russian boxtops and businesses close to Putin, harassment and surveillance of Pindo diplomatic staff in Moscow by security personnel and traffic police have increased significantly. Norm Eisen, Pindo ambassador the Czech Republic from 2011 to 2014 a big donor to Obama’s 2008 campaign, said:

Since the return of Putin, Russia has been engaged in an increasingly aggressive grey war across Europe. Now it’s in retaliation for Western sanctions because of Ukraine. The widely-reported harassment is another front in the grey war. They are hitting Pindosi diplomats literally where they live.

The State Dept has taken several measures in response to the increased level of nefarious activity by the Russian government. All Pindosi diplomats headed for Europe now receive increased training on how to handle Russian harassment, and the European affairs bureau run by Asst Sec Toria (“Fuck the EU”) Nuland has set up regular inter-agency meetings on tracking and responding to the incidents. McFaul told me he and his family were regularly followed and the Russian intelligence services wanted his family to know they were being watched. Other embassy boxtops also suffered routine harassment that increased significantly after the Ukraine-related sanctions. Those diplomats who were trying to report on Russian activities faced the worst of it. McFaul said:

It was part of a way to put pressure on government boxtops who were trying to do their reporting jobs. It definitely escalated when I was there. After the invasion of Ukraine it got much, much worse. We were feeling embattled out there in the embassy.

There was a debate inside the Obama administration about how to respond, McFaul said, and ultimately Obama made the decision not to respond with similar measures against Russian diplomats. A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington sent me a long statement both tacitly admitting to the harassment and defending it as a response to what he called Pindosi provocations and mistreatment of Russian diplomats in Pindostan. He wrote:

The deterioration of Pindo-Russian relations, which was not caused by us, but rather by the current administration’s policy of sanctions and attempts to isolate Russia, has had a negative affect on the functioning of diplomatic missions, both in Pindostan and in Russia. In diplomatic practice there is always the principle of reciprocity, and indeed for the last couple of years our diplomatic staff in Pindostan has been facing certain problems. The Russian side has never acted proactively to negatively affect Pindosi diplomats in any way.

Evelyn Farkas, who served as Deputy Asst Sec Def for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia until last year, said that there is no equivalence between whatever restrictions Russian diplomats are subjected to in Pindostan, and the harassment and intimation that Pindo diplomats suffer at the hands of the Russian security services. The fact that the Russian government stands accused of murdering prominent diplomats and defectors in European countries adds a level of fear for Russia’s targets. Farkas said:

When the Russian government singles people out for this kind of intimidation, going from intimidation to harassment to something worse is not inconceivable.

Kirby told me:

The State Dept takes the safety and well-being of Pindosi diplomatic and consular personnel abroad and their accompanying family members extremely seriously. We have therefore repeatedly raised our concerns about harassment of our diplomatic and consular staff with the Russians, including at the highest levels.

Jackass raised the issue directly with Putin during his visit to Moscow in March. Putin made no promises about ending the harassment, which continued after Jackass returned to Washington. The Pindo ambassadors to Europe are asking Foggy Bottom to do more. Leading Congress critturs involved in diplomacy with Europe see the lack of a more robust Pindosi response as part of an effort by the Obama administration to project a veneer of positive Pindo-Russian relations that doesn’t really exist. Rep Mike Turner (R-Ohio), president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, said:

The problem is there have been no consequences for Russia. The administration continues to pursue a false narrative that Russia can be our partner. They clearly don’t want to be our partner. They’ve identified us as an adversary, and we need to prepare for that type of relationship.

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