In Response to Shaheen, Experts Agree Trump Administration Should Not Return Russian Dachas to the Kremlin
**Questioning follows the Trump administration’s announcement that negotiations will resume between the United States and Russia over seized diplomatic compounds and other points of contention**
(Washington DC) – Today, in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Russian malign influence, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) questioned expert witnesses on the Russian diplomatic compounds that were seized by the U.S. government on December 29, 2016 following Russia’s interference in the November election. The questions follow a recent announcement by the U.S. Department of State that negotiations between Undersecretary of State Tom Shannon and Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov would resume on July 17 in Washington, D.C. In previous testimony, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated that the compounds might be returned to the Russian government during these high-level negotiations and that the State Department is aware of the compounds’ use in Russian intelligence activities. All witnesses today agreed that returning these diplomatic compounds, or dachas, “does not send a good signal” and would give President Putin “political leverage.”
In reaction to Sen. Shaheen’s question on what message this action would send, particularly as Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov threatened retaliation against the United States, Lisa Sawyer Samp, Senior Fellow at the International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the return of the two dachas “only emboldens [Russia] to further action.” Overturning the decision to seize the dachas would send a “message that we’re going to let Russia get away with it… and that [the U.S.] is not going to stand up in any real way.”
Janusz Bugajski, Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, said Russia is “exploiting our own divisions” for their political gain. “It’s time to act. It’s time to push back,” Bugajski said.
Last week, Senators Shaheen, Rubio and Isakson sent a bipartisan letter to President Trump urging him not to return the Russian dachas as part of negotiations with the Kremlin. “The return of these two facilities to Russia while the Kremlin refuses to address its influence campaign against the United States would embolden President Vladimir Putin and invite a dangerous escalation in the Kremlin’s destabilizing actions against democracies worldwide,” the Senators wrote.