Over the long and complicated history of spy craft between the United States and Russia (and its predecessor, the Soviet Union) nabbing and expelling secret agents was commonplace. Seizing real estate wasn’t.
In fact, no Cold War expert consulted by McClatchy could recall it ever happening in the United States.
The rules of the game changed last Dec. 29 when the Obama administration effectively seized Russian compounds in New York and Maryland and declared 35 Russians, including a cook, “personas non grata” in retaliation for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election and physical harassment of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia.
The apparently unprecedented action isn’t likely to be undone anytime soon, thanks to a largely unnoticed provision in the bill imposing new sanctions on Russia that President Donald J. Trump — dogged by congressional and grand jury probes into possible collusion between Moscow and his campaign — grudgingly signed into law last week. The bill requires congressional review of any plan to return the properties; it came…
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