- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2001

Russia threatened swift retaliation yesterday against American diplomats as the State Department presented Moscow with a list of 50 Russian diplomats it called "intelligence officers" who must leave the United States as a result of a mushrooming spy scandal.
The U.S. expulsions of Russians, first leaked Wednesday evening, "cannot be qualified as anything but political," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in televised remarks in Moscow yesterday.
"Therefore it is not our choice, but we are forced to take adequate measures, adequate to the solution made by Washington," he added in comments broadcast on CNN and NBC.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said yesterday he had personally told the Russian Ambassador Yuriy Ushakov on Wednesday of "our decision to expel four Russian intelligence officers who were directly implicated" in the case of FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Hanssen.
Mr. Hanssen was arrested last month in Virginia on charges he spied for the Soviet Union and Russia for more than 15 years.
"I made clear to the ambassador the actions the Russian government needs to take to address our long-standing concern about the level of their intelligence presence in the United States," Mr. Powell told reporters.
Mr. Powell said he spoke with Mr. Ivanov about the expulsions and "we consider the matter closed."
But a few hours later, Mr. Ivanov vowed that Russia would retaliate, hinting broadly that a large number of U.S. diplomats may soon be asked to leave.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov protested Washington's move in a meeting at the ministry with U.S. Ambassador James Collins.
"It was underlined that this is an unfriendly act, aimed at worsening Russian-American relations, and it follows that it will not remain without consequences and will receive an adequate answer," the ministry said in a statement.
Despite the spy-vs.-spy scenario played out in the past two days, both President Bush and Mr. Powell said they hoped overall U.S.-Russian relations would not be disrupted.
"We have important interests in maintaining cooperative and productive relations with Russia, and we intend to continue working to advance those interests," Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Bush, addressing the National Newspaper Association meeting yesterday, said: "The actions we took yesterday speak for themselves… . Our government made the right decisions."
"I intend to have a working relationship with the Russians," Mr. Bush added. "I suspect the first time I'll have a chance to sit down with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is when I head overseas" to the Group of Eight summit in Naples this summer.
The U.S. action was the largest of its kind since 1986, when President Reagan ordered some 80 Soviet diplomats expelled for espionage work.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday that four Russian diplomats had already been asked to leave the country. Another department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that 46 others would have to leave as well.
"This morning, the Department of State notified the Russian Embassy that four of its accredited diplomats have been declared persona non grata in the United States and should leave the country forthwith," Mr. Boucher said.
The four, implicated either in collecting secrets from Mr. Hanssen or financing his activities, must leave within 10 days, a senior State Department official said yesterday. Another two have already left.
Forty-six more names were handed over to the Russians yesterday, the senior official told reporters yesterday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
All are "intelligence officers" working under the cover of diplomatic postings, he said. "We did not expel their declared [intelligence] officers who cooperate with us on terrorism and drugs."
Russia had promised after the collapse of the Soviet Union to rein in its spying network. The number of intelligence agents in the United States fell from 1991 to 1993, the senior State Department official said.
"But from 1993 to 1997 the level went back up again, and after 1997 it hasn't come down," he said.
The official refused to disclose the names of any of the 52 Russians required to leave the United States.
The total of 52 Russians is four less than an estimate made Wednesday and cited in yesterday's editions of The Washington Times. State Department officials said they had not completed the list of those to be expelled until yesterday morning. It is the largest number of expelled diplomats since 1986 during the Cold War.
Russian Embassy spokesman Yuriy Zubarev said yesterday that he would not comment on the expulsions.
"There is an ongoing process of leaving and coming at the embassy. We have about 200 families and some of them are replaced every week on a rotation basis," he said.
Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters at a breakfast yesterday the expulsion of the diplomats signaled a tougher U.S. approach to Russia by the new administration.


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