'We’re going to save a lot of money,' US president says

President Donald Trump thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday for his decision to expel hundreds of U.S. staffers from Washington's diplomatic mission in that country.

"I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll," Trump told reporters at his New Jersey golf club.

It is unclear if Trump made the comments in jest or was offering serious gratitude.

Russia opted to retaliate late last month to overwhelming congressional approval of fresh U.S. sanctions by ordering the U.S. to cut its diplomatic footprint by 755 staffers. Trump reluctantly signed the legislation into law despite voicing serious reservations about its constitutionality.

The sanctions were applied on Russia due, in part, to its alleged attempts to steer last year's presidential election in Trump's favor. Putin has denied the charges.

The U.S. has until September to cut its staff, which currently amounts to about 1,200 people.

"There’s no real reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that they've been able to cut our payroll of the United States," Trump said. "We’re going to save a lot of money.”

Vladimir Putin