U.S. officials are advising service members and their families to avoid unofficial visits to Russia after reports of increasing scrutiny and harassment.
Pentagon personnel from the Kaiserslautern Military Community in Germany have recently reported harassment from Russian immigration agents amid a time of increasingly frosty relations between the U.S. and Russia, Stars and Stripes reports.
For now, service members are advised to steer clear of Russia in all circumstances except for official trips, the security office at Kaiserslautern said Tuesday.
Further, any members of the military who do experience harassment should report those experiences to the security office and the Kaiserslautern Military Intelligence Detachment.
According to the Army, service members should also be cognizant of the State Department’s general advisory to carefully consider the “current political-military environment” when looking to travel to Russia for vacations or other unofficial business.
Russia has recently upped the ante in response to new U.S. sanctions by ordering the American diplomatic mission to cut 755 employees, which analysts consider the harshest move since 1986 during the waning days of the Soviet Union. Some of the employees are Russian nationals. Although Congress passed the Russian sanctions bill by an overwhelming vote, President Donald Trump signed off on the legislation with extreme reluctance, citing various apparently unconstitutional provisions. Trump also added that the bill limits the ability of the executive branch to conduct negotiations.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has pledged that the U.S. will come up with a rejoinder to the Russian move by September 1 but added that the U.S. has not yet figured out what that rejoinder will be. Tillerson’s statement Monday morning came following a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
Relations between the U.S. and Russia have been on a steady decline since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in early 2014 and support of rebels in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. has responded with sanctions and non-lethal aid to Ukrainian forces, but some members of Congress and parts of the bureaucracy have pushed for sending lethal aid to Ukraine.
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