Home World U.S. News US Orders Closure of Russian Consulate in San Francisco

US Orders Closure of Russian Consulate in San Francisco


The US ordered Russia to close its San Francisco consulate and two trade missions in response to “unwarranted” Russian action, the State Department has announced.

The San Francisco consulate, and annexes in New York and Washington, must close by September 2.

The State Department’s move follows Moscow’s reduction of US diplomatic staff in Russia last month.

That in turn followed new US sanctions on Russia over Crimea and alleged election interference, which led to the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats.

In December 2016, former President Barack Obama had ordered those expulsions, along with the closure of two compounds.

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin did not respond initially to that move, with President Trump set to assume office, he then announced on July 31 a reduction of 755 US diplomatic staff in Russia, in retaliation for the US sanctions.

The US diplomats expelled have until September 1 to leave Russia – a day before the US closures of the Russian consulate and two annexes, which are trade missions, must be completed.

Image source Wikimedia

A senior administration official said on August 31 that the consulate and the residence attached to it as well as the two trade missions would close but no Russian staff would be required to leave the US.

Russia will be allowed to maintain the properties, but not use them, the official added.

According to the State Department, the US actions were “in the spirit of parity”. It blamed Russia for what it called a downward spiral in bilateral ties, but suggested it wanted an end to the current spat.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement: “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 our presidents: improved relations between our two countries and increased co-operation on areas of mutual concern.”

The move leaves each country with three consulates in place, Heather Nauert added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone call on August 31, expressing “regret at the escalation of tensions in bilateral relations”.

According to a statement from the Russian foreign ministry, Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would study the order and respond accordingly.

Sergei Lavrov and Rex Tillerson are due to meet in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Earlier this month, President Trump said US relations with Russia were at a “dangerous low” amid a row with Congress over the fresh sanctions against Moscow.

The president, who wanted warmer ties with Russia, had opposed the bill, which included a provision that limits his ability to lift sanctions and forces him to consult Congress first.

President Trump has been dogged by claims that Russia tried to sway the election in his favor and several investigations are under way to determine whether anyone from his campaign colluded with Moscow.

However, Russia has repeatedly denied interfering and President Trump has insisted that there was no collusion, calling the investigations a “witch hunt”.