The United States has ordered Russia to shutter its San Francisco consulate and close offices in Washington and New York, intensifying tensions between the former Cold War foes. Washington gave Moscow 48 hours to comply.
The Trump administration describes its action as retaliation for the Kremlin’s “unwarranted and detrimental” demand earlier this month that the U.S. cut its diplomatic staff in Russia. But Moscow declared it a major escalation, with a top Russian lawmaker saying the move heralded “the hot phase of diplomatic war.”
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says, “The United States is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted.”
It was a harsh welcome to Washington for new Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov, who arrived only hours after the U.S. announcement.
The newly arrived Russian ambassador to the United States has 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.
A member of Russia’s parliament is accusing the U.S. of a sharp escalation in diplomatic tensions.
Leonid Slutsky is head of the Russian Duma’s foreign affairs committee. Slutsky is criticizing the U.S. decision to close the Russian consulate in San Francisco and scale back operations in Washington and New York.
Slutsky is quoted by Russian news agencies as saying, “It’s a highly unjust step. It means that the U.S. is declaring the hot phase of diplomatic war.”
He says that closing institutions abroad is more serious than the U.S. decision last year to expel 35 Russian diplomats and close two estates used by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The U.S. says Russian diplomats who work at three diplomatic facilities being closed by the U.S. can be reassigned to other Russian consulates or posts in the United States.
A senior American official says the U.S. has told Russia it isn’t kicking any diplomats out of the country. The official says Russia will continue to own the buildings that house the Russian posts. The official adds that Russia can sell the buildings or otherwise dispose of them. One is leased.
The official says the closures affect Russia’s consulate general in San Francisco and an official residence there. Annexes in New York and Washington that house trade missions also must close by Saturday.
The official briefed reporters on a telephone conference call on condition of anonymity.