>> The US-Russia diplomatic standoff may not be all that it seems. Over the weekend, Moscow ordered the United States to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 people, but said on Monday that the US could include local Russian employees in those cuts. And as Reuters Bureau Chief Christian Lowe explains, that could mean no US diplomats end up leaving the country at all.
>> The majority of the people who work for the US embassy and consulates in Russia are Russian nationals, people who are hired locally. What we anticipate will happen is that in order to reduce their diplomatic presence by 750 people, the majority of the people who will be affected will be the Russian nationals.
>> Nevertheless, the cuts are the most dramatic diplomatic move by Russia since the Cold War. On top of the staff reduction, Moscow has said it would seize two US diplomatic properties. Removal trucks already seen leaving this warehouse. A complex used by embassy staff for weekend recreation also expected to be repossessed.
Putin's move is retaliation after the US House of Representatives and the Senate overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against Russia.>> A strong message to Vladimir Putin.>> Those sanctions partly a response to the US intelligence community's conclusions that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. And a further punishment for the annexation of Crimea in 2014, but relations could be worse.
>> Russia has not retaliated in a way that would affect the economic relationship with the United States. So for example, there are no measures that would hurt the interests of the big US blue chip companies that have major investments in Russia. What we have is a diplomatic step that's eye-catching, that presents Vladimir Putin in a way that makes him look strong and decisive to his domestic audience.
And that's important with an election coming up in under a year. But won't do fundamental further harm to the core of the relationship.>> Despite the theatrics, it could be that Putin has not given up hope of improved relations with the US just yet.