Trump administration orders Russia to shutter consulate following Russia’s order that the U.S. cut its diplomatic personnel in Russia.
By Ben Ariel – Arutz Sheva
The Trump administration on Thursday ordered Russia to shutter a consulate in San Francisco as well as annexes in Washington and New York, the State Department announced.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, according to The Hill, that the move was positioned as a response “in the spirit of parity” to the Russian government’s order that the U.S. cut down the number of diplomatic personnel in Russia, which she described as “unwarranted and detrimental.”
Moscow is ordered to close the facilities, which include the consulate and two trade annexes, by Saturday.
“The United States has fully implemented the decision by the Government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia,” Nauert was quoted as having said. “We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin last month ordered a reduction in the number of U.S. diplomats in Russia. The move came in response to Trump signing a bill imposing sanctions on Moscow over its interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
Speaking to reporters following Thursday’s announcement, however, a senior administration official emphasized that Washington’s ultimate goal is to improve relations with Moscow, not further damage them.
“Our goal is really to find a way to get to better relations between our two countries,” the official said, according to The Hill.
Russia immediately reacted negatively to the move, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accusing the U.S. of escalating tensions and a Kremlin spokesperson promising retaliation.
“We regret the unconstructive stance taken by our counterparts in the United States and, of course, we cannot afford to leave unfriendly, and sometimes hostile steps towards us without retaliation,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as having said.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders addressed the decision at a briefing later Thursday, saying that it was Trump’s decision to close the properties.
“We’ve taken a firm and measured action in response to Russia’s unfortunate decision earlier this year, and we want to halt the downward spiral and we want to move forward towards better relations,” Sanders said.
“But we’re also going to make sure that we make decisions that are best for our country,” she added.