SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) — The Trump administration retaliated Thursday against Russia’s expulsion of U.S. diplomats by ordering the Russian consulate in San Francisco to be closed.
The administration also ordered the reduction of the number of Russians in the Washington, D.C., embassy and consulate in New York.
The State Department said the move was in response to the Kremlin forcing a cut in U.S. diplomatic staff in Moscow. Spokesman Heather Nauert said the move brings the U.S. and Russia into “parity,” with each having three consulates in the other country.
“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,” Nauert said in a statement. “These closures will need to be accomplished by September 2.”
Moscow forced the cut in American diplomatic staff earlier this year in retaliation for U.S. sanctions. Washington had to reduce its diplomatic staff by 755 people.
“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 newly arrived Russian ambassador to the United States invoked Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin in saying Moscow will carefully consider its response to the order to close its consulate in San Francisco and scale back operations in Washington and New York.
Anatoly Antonov flew into Washington on Thursday, hours after the State Department’s announcement of the closure.
Russian news agencies quoted him as saying: “We have to act calmly and professionally. Speaking like Lenin, we don’t need hysterical impulses,” citing a Lenin maxim.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said the U.S. would respond by September.
“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,” Nauert said. “The United States is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted.”
There was no immediate reaction from the Russian government. But given the back-and-forth nature of the escalating tensions over the past year, it was likely the Kremlin would feel compelled to respond by taking further action against the U.S.
Nevertheless, the United States argued that the score has been evened, urging Russia not to retaliate for the retaliation. U.S. officials pointed out that Russia, when it ordered the cut in U.S. diplomats, had argued it was merely bringing the size of the two countries’ diplomatic presences into “parity.”
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