The U.S. retaliated Thursday against Vladimir Putin's move to force the U.S. to reduce its embassy staff in Russia by 755. Putin had made that move in response to looming U.S. sanctions, since signed by President Trump.
The tit-for-tat began last December, after Barack Obama seized two Russian compounds in the U.S., accusing the Kremlin of using them as spy bases. In the interim, President Trump had been considering returning those Russian compounds, including a beautiful 45-acre estate in Maryland, after Russia warned relations couldn't improve until Trump did so.
Axios went to Maryland in July to look at the summer retreat at the heart of U.S.-Russia relations.
- Soviet Union purchases 45-acre estate near the town of Centreville on Maryland's Eastern Shore, to be used as a diplomatic retreat. Another facility, on Long Island in New York, was purchased in 1952.
- Oct. 31: Barack Obama warns Putin of "serious consequences" for Russian interference in U.S. election.
- Nov. 8: Trump elected president.
- Dec. 29: Obama orders the compounds closed, accusing Russia of using them for espionage and expelling 35 suspected Russian spies.
- Dec. 30: Putin doesn't retaliate immediately, preferring to work with the Trump administration. Michael Flynn had reportedly made assurances that Trump would be more accommodating. Trump tweets: "Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!"
- Jan. 20: Trump inaugurated as president.
- March 31: Washington Post reports that the Trump administration is moving toward returning the compounds.
- July 7: Putin raises the compounds in a meeting with Trump at the G20 in Hamburg, Germany.
- July 14: A Kremlin spokeswoman says Russia is prepared to use "means of retaliation" if the compounds aren't returned.
- July 17: A high-level meeting at State Department centers on the compounds, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov saying the sides were "close" to an agreement.
- July 18: With that agreement still not reached, Russia warns again of its "right to take retaliatory measures." Ryabkov says the fact that the compounds haven't been returned "poisons the atmosphere." The State Department says it wants to get past such "irritations" and move on to more substantive issues, but doesn't offer a timetable for when the compounds might be returned.
- July 28: Russia seizes two U.S. diplomatic compounds, and orders the U.S. embassy in Moscow to reduce its staffing levels, a day after Congress had passed new sanctions on Russia.
- Aug.10: Trump thanks Putin for his move, saying it will cut costs for the U.S.
- Aug. 31: U.S. forces Russia to close San Francisco consulate and cut presence in D.C.