Diplo­matic mis­sion must cut 755; what do all these work­ers do?

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By An­drew Roth

MOS­COW» When Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin an­nounced Sun­day that the U.S. Em­bassy and con­sulates in Rus­sia would have to cut 755 diplo­matic and tech­ni­cal staffers, many peo­ple had the same first thought: We have 755 diplo­mats in Rus­sia for Putin to ex­pel? Doesn’t that seem like a lot?

The an­swer is yes, that does seem like a lot. Be­cause no, we don’t have 755 diplo­mats in Rus­sia.

So what is Putin talk­ing about? Al­to­gether, the U.S. gov­ern­ment em­ploys more than an es­ti­mated 1,200 peo­ple in Rus­sia. The ma­jor­ity are hired by the State Depart­ment, charged with run­ning the U.S. Em­bassy and con­sulates, pro­cess­ing visas and han­dling other diplo­matic tasks. But it also in­cludes em­ploy­ees of dozens of gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies and de­part­ments, like the Defense Depart­ment, the Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment, NASA and even the Li­brary of Congress. Col­lec­tively, this vast en­ter­prise is of­ten re­ferred to as U.S. Mis­sion Rus­sia or just Mis­sion Rus­sia.

Mis­sion Rus­sia em­ploys an “es­ti­mated” 1,200 peo­ple be­cause the U.S. Em­bassy and the State Depart­ment have not re­sponded to our re­quests for data about how many peo­ple are em­ployed in this en­deavor.

Luck­ily, the blog Di­plop­un­dit had a help­ful post Sun­day, break­ing down the num­bers us­ing ear­lier re­ports: “In 2013, US Mis­sion Rus­sia (em­bassy and con­sulates gen­eral) em­ployed 1,279 staffers. This in­cluded 301 U.S. di­rect-hire po­si­tions and 934 lo­cally em­ployed (LE) staff po­si­tions from 35 U.S. Gov­ern­ment agen­cies.”

Those statis­tics came from a 2013 re­port put to­gether by the State Depart­ment’s Of­fice of In­spec­tor Gen­eral, which in­spects the “ap­prox­i­mately 260 em­bassies, diplo­matic posts, and in­ter­na­tional broad­cast­ing in­stal­la­tions through­out the world” to see whether re­sources are prop­erly al­lo­cated to achieve U.S. pol­icy goals.

The full 2013 re­port con­tains a wealth of in­for­ma­tion about who works for U.S. Mis­sion Rus­sia, in­clud­ing a break­down of how many U.S. and for­eign staffers work for each gov­ern­ment depart­ment and agency. I have in­cluded a few thoughts be­low. There is also a re­port from 2007 that we’ll use for com­par­i­son. One note: The 2013 re­port gives na­tion­al­ity and depart­ment data for only 1,200 of Mis­sion Rus­sia’s 1,279 em­ploy­ees.

The ma­jor­ity of U.S. Mis­sion Rus­sia em­ploy­ees are not Amer­i­cans and won’t be ex­pelled: Of 1,200 peo­ple em­ployed in 2013 in Mis­sion Rus­sia, 333 were U.S. cit­i­zens and 867 were des­ig­nated “For­eign Na­tional Staff,” most of them prob­a­bly Rus­sians. Us­ing the 2013 num­bers, if Mis­sion Rus­sia is forced to let go of 755 peo­ple, a ma­jor­ity of them would not be U.S. cit­i­zens and prob­a­bly would not be ex­pelled from the coun­try.

Putin said he is seek­ing par­ity and wants Mis­sion Rus­sia to em­ploy the same num­ber of peo­ple as Rus­sia does in the United States (455 peo­ple).

This will hurt Rus­sians: The sin­gle largest de­part­men­tal em­ployer in Mis­sion Rus­sia is the In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tive Ad­min­is­tra­tive Sup­port Ser­vices, or ICASS, em­ploy­ing 652 peo­ple in 2013 (that was a ma­jor­ity of the staff in Mis­sion Rus­sia). Of those 652 peo­ple, 603 were for­eign­ers, prob­a­bly Rus­sians.

What do they do? Mostly ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices.

Putin’s de­ci­sion im­plies that many of them will lose their jobs as the State Depart­ment goes through a painful triage process be­fore the Sept. 1 dead­line.

The Krem­lin of­ten de­nies ac­cess to its own mar­ket, whether to su­per­mar­ket con­sumers or adopt­able chil­dren, to strike back at the West. So lim­it­ing ac­cess to its la­bor mar­ket for the U.S. Em­bassy is not a to­tal sur­prise. In fact, in 1986, the Soviet Union banned its cit­i­zens from work­ing for the U.S. Em­bassy, forc­ing em­bassy staffers to moon­light as chauf­feurs and me­chan­ics.

This will fur­ther hurt Rus­sians: This will also prob­a­bly force the U.S. Em­bassy and con­sulates to cut con­sular staffers, in­clud­ing em­ploy­ees who process visa re­quests. The re­sult of a fur­ther draw­down, for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to Rus­sia Michael McFaul pre­dicted in a tweet, would be a slow­down in visa turn­around.

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