WASHINGTON -- Russia has ordered the expulsion of two American military attaches working at the United States Embassy in Moscow, the State Department said yesterday.
"I can confirm the two military attaches have been asked to leave the country," said Gonzo R. Gallegos, the department's director of press relations. "We object to these actions, but we'll comply with the Russian government's request."
No one at the State Department would speculate about the reasons for the expulsions, although the United States has reportedly expelled a handful of Russians in recent years in little-noticed diplomatic dust-ups. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman in Moscow told Reuters that the Russian government had no comment "at the moment." The Russian Embassy in Washington also declined to comment on the matter.
There was nothing to suggest any kind of crisis between Washington and Moscow, and the subject did not even come up in a conversation between journalists and a White House spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, aboard Air Force One, as President Bush flew to Texas for his daughter Jenna's wedding this weekend.
Still, the latest incident was a reminder of the strains in relations between two countries that have vastly different histories, traditions and expectations even in the post-Soviet era, despite President Bush's having had Vladimir V. Putin, Russia's new prime minister and former president, as a guest at his home in Texas.