In late December 2016, President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats, a retaliatory move for Russian-sanctioned hacking during the US elections, as well as harassment of US diplomats in Moscow over the summer.
The hacking side of the story has been well documented. Less noted, perhaps, was the fact that Russia had stepped up surveillance and harassment of US diplomats, in response to US-imposed economic sanctions condemning Russia’s February 2014 military intervention in Ukraine. The homes of several US diplomats in Russia were invaded and vandalized in 2016. On June 6, a Russian FSB agent physically assaulted and injured an American diplomat attempting to enter the US Embassy in Moscow.
Could the United States have responded to the harassment by suing Russia before the International Court of Justice (ICJ)? Here’s how the harassment story lays out, in legal terms:
How do presidents shake long-running diplomatic policies that stay in place despite the lack of positive outcomes? The Obama administration's opening of US-Cuba relations, like the Nixon administration's US-China rapprochement, took a bold move in the face of domestic backlash and a resistant bureaucracy, among other hurdles.