White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday said the U.S. would not hesitate to expel Russian diplomats if they are suspected of espionage, amid other countries removing the Russian officials.
NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd noted during an interview with Sullivan that nearly 20 other countries had moved to expel Russian diplomats in the past week. He pointed out there are about 400 Russian officials in the U.S. and asked Sullivan why the U.S. hasn’t moved to expel from the country.
Sullivan responded by pointing to the dozen Russian officials who were expelled in February for “espionage activities.”
“We have, in fact, expelled 12 Russian diplomats. And many of these countries that announced actions this week were catching up to the previous American announcement of expulsions,” said Sullivan.
“Now, of course, we’re always on the lookout for anyone connected to espionage or spy services. And we will not hesitate to take further action to declare persona non grata to expel, to kick out further Russian quote — unquote ‘diplomats’ if we determine they’re spies,” he added.
Todd pressed Sullivan on the matter, noting the hundreds that still remain after the 12 diplomats were made to leave.
“If you look at the way that we do this, every year we take an assessment of who we believe is operating undercover of one of the Russian spy services. If we make a determination that someone’s here not as a diplomat but as a spy, we kick them out and we’ll continue to do that,” Sullivan responded.
When the 12 Russian diplomats were expelled from the U.S., officials said it was due to them abusing “their privileges of residency in the U.S. by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security,” and did not cite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as reason for the expulsion.