US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel applauded the decision of NATO and some European Union nations to expel Russian diplomats over the Sergei Skripal case, the White House said in a readout after a phone call between the two leaders on Tuesday.
“Both leaders praised the joint announcements from North Atlantic Treaty Organization Allies, European Union member states, and other partners to expel undeclared Russian intelligence officers in solidarity with the United Kingdom and in response to Russia’s reckless use of chemical weapons,” the readout said.
Previously, another US official commented on NATO's move: US General Jim "Mad Dog" Mattis delivered a strong message to Moscow, stating that the decision of NATO to withdraw accreditation of seven members of the Russian mission was a statement to those who doubted the unity of the alliance.
Mattis also called the Skripal's poisoning "attempted murder," adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin should be held responsible as the head of state.
The defense secretary went on to say that though Russia has the potential to be a partner with Europe, but right now the country has chosen "to seek a different relationship with the NATO members."
Earlier, in response to the Skripal case, US President Donald Trump ordered the removal of 60 Russian diplomats, which is the largest expulsion in the history of US-Russia ties. The US move came despite Trump's previous promise to improve relations with Moscow.
All in all, on Monday, about 100 Russian diplomats were expelled from 16 European countries, as well as the US, Canada and Australia. Commenting on the move, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted that anti-Russian measures introduced over the Skripal case demonstrate how few independent countries remain in the modern world.
On March 4, British intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia were exposed to a poisonous substance. The British side claimed that the Russian state was involved in the case, as nerve agent A-234 was allegedly developed in the Soviet Union. These purported conclusions prompted the UK to remove 23 Russian diplomats in response.
Russia denies all these claims, calling them unfounded and suggested its participation in the investigation into the case.