The Trump administration on Thursday ordered Russia to close down a consulate in San Francisco in addition to diplomatic annexes in Washington and New York, citing the move as a response to an earlier Russian call for the U.S. to reduce embassy staff in Moscow by 755 State Department employees.
The move is being billed as “retaliation” by much of the mainstream media. The Trump State Department’s choice of phrasing, however, was that the order came “in the spirit of parity.”
Either way, Russia is ordered to get out of the facilities by Saturday.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement that the U.S. expects full and timely cooperation.
“The United States has fully implemented the decision by the Government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia,” she said. “We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries.”
The Cold War throwback of a diplomatic diss signals that President Trump may be losing his argument that the U.S. should make a priority of improving relations with Russia.
As recently as Monday, the president expressed a desire for a more productive relationship: “I hope that we do have good relations with Russia. I say it loud and clear, I have been saying it for years. I think it’s a good thing if we have great relationships, or at least good relationships, with Russia. I believe someday that will happen.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order for U.S. diplomatic reductions in Moscow came amid shrieks from the U.S. intelligence and media establishment regarding still unproven claims that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
Even with Trump’s apparent move to acquiesce anti-Russia members of the U.S. establishment with the diplomatic closures, some are arguing that the administration hasn’t gone far enough.
From The New York Times:
Francisco is the oldest and most established consulate in the United States, according to administration officials, consisting of an office building and a residence. The two annexes housed Russian trade missions.
But the State Department’s response seemed calculated to avoid deepening the rift with Russia. The administration is not expelling any Russian diplomatic personnel from the United States, nor did it touch the staff at Russia’s main embassy in Washington.
“It is an important and needed response, but it is not proportionate,” said Michael A. McFaul, who served as ambassador to Moscow during the Obama administration. “The dismissal of 755 employees has a much greater impact on our diplomatic operations in Russia than this action has on Russian operations in the United States.”
The Trump administration’s announcement of the action also bore little resemblance to Russia’s move, which was announced by President Vladimir V. Putin himself in an interview with stare-run Russian television.
In other words, the political class that’s been jockeying for a Cold War revival since long before Trump took the White House (a revival that was all but promised given a Hillary Clinton victory) is dying to hear talk of “firte and fury” from the president on Russia. Hopefully that isn’t going to happen. But as Trump’s inner circle in the White House continues to change– and look more Washington-approved– it isn’t a stretch to believe Clinton-style foreign policy is about to become Trump’s newest international brand.
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