John Sullivan’s departure leaves both countries’ embassies without their respective ambassadors when both Washington and Moscow have announced new sanctions. Sullivan said on Tuesday that “I believe it is important for me to speak directly with my new colleagues in the Biden administration in Washington about the current state of bilateral relations between the United States and Russia."
US Imposes New Sweeping Unilateral Coercive Measures on Russia
“Also, I have not seen my family in well over a year, and that is another important reason for me to return home for a visit. I will return to Moscow in the coming weeks before any meeting between presidents Biden and Putin.”
Last week, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin discussed a possible summit though the Kremlin indicated it would take time to organize and thus would prove “impossible” to hold in the coming weeks.
After Biden agreed with a journalist that Putin was "a killer" and said he would “pay a price” for supposed interference during the 2020 presidential elections, Russia recalled its ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, for consultations in March.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not give a firm date on which the ambassadors would return to their postings. “The return of the ambassadors after consultations in their capitals will depend, first and foremost, on the presence of reasons for that,” he told journalists.
Last week, the Biden administration expelled 10 Russian diplomats, announcing sweeping sanctions against Russia over alleged elections interference and purported role in the SolarWinds supply-chain hack.
In response, Russia expelled 10 U.S. diplomats, targeting U.S. embassy operations, and recommended the ambassador exit the country.
The foreign ministry wrote in an announcement of its counter-sanctions last week: “It is obvious that the extremely tense situation currently implies an objective need for the ambassadors of both our countries to be in their capitals to analyze the situation and hold consultations."
While Sullivan was not formally expelled from Moscow, it seems that Russian government indications influenced his decision to leave the country temporarily. The last U.S. ambassador to be expelled from the country was George F Kennan, who was declared persona-non-grata by the Soviet Union under Stalin in 1952.