President Trump thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling more than 700 U.S. diplomats and staff from Russia and said the expulsions will save the U.S. money.
"I want to thank him because we're trying to cut down our payroll and as far as I'm concerned I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll," Trump told reporters Thursday at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., according to a pool report. "There's no real reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we've been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We're going to save a lot of money."
Putin order the U.S. to cut its staff in Russia by 755, which includes U.S. diplomats and technical personnel, in response to a bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump that imposed new sanctions against Russia.
"We waited for quite a long time, perhaps, something will change for the better, we held our hope that the situation would somehow change," Putin told state-run Rossiya 1 television last month. "But judging by everything, if it changes, it will not be soon."
Putin capped the number of American personnel at 455, matching the number of Russian diplomatic and technical personnel in the U.S.
According to the Washington Post, there are nearly 1,200 employees working at U.S. missions in Russia, and the U.S. has until Sept. 1 to reduce its staff.
In addition to ordering the U.S. to reduce its staff, the Russian government also seized two diplomatic properties.
The action from Russia came after Congress overwhelmingly approved a sanctions bill intended to punish the Kremlin for meddling in the 2016 election and aggression toward neighboring countries.
Former President Barack Obama had also implemented his own set of punishments against Russia before leaving office. Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats in December, and seized two Russian diplomatic compounds — one in Maryland and another in New York.