Russia given 48 hours to comply with order to shut consulate, East Coast offices
Russia vowed Friday to respond to a U.S. order to shut the Russian Consulate in San Francisco and offices in Washington and New York, but also indicated that Moscow was not inclined to raise the stakes in the diplomatic tit-for-tat between the two countries.
The Trump administration said the order issued Thursday was in retaliation for the Kremlin’s “unwarranted and detrimental” demand last month that the U.S. substantially reduce the size of its diplomatic staff in Russia.
“The United States is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. Still, Nauert said Washington hoped both countries could now move toward “improved relations” and “increased co-operation.”
The U.S. gave Russia 48 hours to comply with the order for the San Francisco consulate and the East Coast offices. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Moscow would reply with firmness, but needs time to study Washington’s directive and to decide on a response.
“We will have a tough response to the things that come totally out of the blue to hurt us and are driven solely by the desire to spoil our relations with the United States,” Lavrov said in a televised meeting with students at Russia’s top diplomacy school.
Other top Russian officials also urged caution.
President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, told Russian news agencies later Friday that the Kremlin “regrets” the latest U.S. move and needs to “think carefully about how we
Ushakov also left room for Russia to refrain from retaliation.
“On the other hand, one does not want to go into a frenzy because someone has to be reasonable and stop,” he said.
The closures on both U.S. coasts marked perhaps the most drastic diplomatic measure by the United States against Russia since 1986, near the end of the Cold War, when the nucleararmed powers expelled dozens of each other’s diplomats.
American officials argued that Russia had no cause for retribution now, noting that Moscow’s ordering of U.S. diplomatic cuts last month was premised on bringing the two countries’ diplomatic presences into “parity.”
Both countries now maintain
three consulates in each other’s territory and ostensibly similar numbers of diplomats. Exact numbers are difficult to independently verify.
Several hours after the U.S. announcement, new Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov arrived in Washington to start his posting.
At the airport, Antonov cited a maxim of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin as he urged caution and professionalism.
“We don’t need hysterical impulses,” Russian news agencies quoted Antonov as saying.
In assessing Washington’s directive, Russian officials and lawmakers said Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump might be getting tough on Russia against his will.
The new package of sanctions against Russia that Congress adopted last month not only hits Russia but is designed to “tie Trump’s hands, not let him use his constitutional powers to the full to make foreign policy,” Lavrov said.
Nationalist party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who publicly cheered Trump’s election, called the flurry of U.S. sanctions against Russia “an illness that will go away.”
“It’s an illness because (they) are not leaving President Trump alone to run the country and keep coming up with tricks to draw a wedge between America and Russia,” Zhirinovsky said in a video statement that did specify who might be creating such obstacles for Trump.
Putin speaks at a meeting with students in Yaroslavl, Russia. Russia vowed Friday to respond to an order to shut the Russian Consulate in San Francisco and offices in Washington and New York.