1. Target the boss
We took a swat at Putin’s “diplomatic” corps (everyone in national security knows that most Russian “diplomats” are spies—it’s one of the worst kept secrets in the diplomatic world) Monday by kicking out 60 Russian diplomats and shuttering the consulate in Seattle. But kicking out diplomats is low hanging fruit—one step more serious than, say, issuing a strongly worded press statement. And the effects aren’t that serious. In some cases expelling diplomats does decrease the level of official contact between countries, but U.S.-Russian business isn’t done by intelligence officers. And even without these intelligence officers, Putin can get information that he needs about the U.S., because his intelligence units have infiltrated our infrastructure. He doesn’t need “diplomats” in the U.S to change U.S. public opinion; he’s already waging an information warfare campaign from within Russia that’s penetrating the U.S.
So the next agenda item in situation room discussions is likely whether kicking out the ambassador to Russia would be an appropriate follow-up response. We’ve had U.S. ambassadors declared persona non grata (PNG’ed in diplomatic speak) before. Getting PNGed is both symbolic and impactful—without an ambassador in country, Russia will have less opportunity to get face time with the president, secretary of state and other high level officials. (Poland in fact has expelledRussia’s ambassador in response to the same chemical weapons attack.) It’s definitely upping the ante.