A view of the Russian consulate on Aug. 31, in San Francisco. In response to a Russian government demand for the United States to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 455, the Trump administration ordered the closure of three consular offices in the San Francisco, New York and Washington. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The U.S. told Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco and two annex buildings in Washington and New York in two days, Aug. 31, in a tit-for-tat response to Moscow’s drastic cut in the American diplomatic staff in their country, writes Lalit K. Jha.
The retaliatory move from the Trump Administration comes weeks after Russia forced a cut in U.S. diplomatic staff in Moscow by hundreds.
“The U.S. has fully implemented the decision by the Government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia. We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said.
“In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian Government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City. These closures will need to be accomplished by September 2,” Nauert said.
With this action both countries will remain with three consulates each, she added.
Last month, Russia forced the cut in U.S. diplomatic staff in retaliation for American sanctions. The U.S. had to reduce its diplomatic staff by 755 people.
Moscow ordered the U.S. to cut its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia by more than half to 455 people after Congress overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against Russia.
The sanctions were imposed in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and to punish Russia further for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said the U.S. would respond by September.
“While there will continue to be a disparity in the number of diplomatic and consular annexes, we have chosen to allow the Russian Government to maintain some of its annexes in an effort to arrest the downward spiral in our relationship,” Nauert said.
“The United States hopes that, having moved toward the Russian Federation’s desire for parity, we can avoid further retaliatory actions by both sides and move forward to achieve the stated goal of both of our presidents: improved relations between our two countries and increased cooperation on areas of mutual concern,” she said.
The U.S. is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted, Nauert warned.