War of diplomats: why Russia and the US are constantly cutting each other’s diplomatic missions
Russia and the United States are constantly cutting back on each other’s diplomatic missions, reducing the number of diplomats, requisitioning dachas and consulates and exchanging sharp rhetoric about it.
Why did the two countries quarrel?
Russia and the United States are in an acute phase of confrontation because of the Kremlin’s aggressive policy in the east of Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea. In addition, Washington suspects Moscow of interfering in the presidential elections in the US and the support of Donald Trump, who eventually helped him to win. Special Attorney Robert Muller, a former FBI chief, is currently investigating whether the Kremlin really supported the Republican candidate for president.
But even earlier, the so-called “war of diplomats” intensified between the two countries, which affected both diplomatic missions, their employees and buildings assigned to embassies and consulates. As the new Russian ambassador to the UN Nebenzia noted, the relationship between the Russian Federation and the US “is at an impermissibly low level.”
Officially, countries state that such actions are aimed at “restoring parity” in diplomatic missions.
When did it start?
“Diplomatic war” began in December 2016, at the very end of the cadence of Barack Obama. Although it should be noted that in July of last year there was an incident with the attack of an officer of the Federal Security Service in civilian clothes on an American diplomat.
As his “farewell chord,” the 44th US president announced new sanctions against the Russian Federation, within the framework of which 35 Russian diplomats were expelled and two embassy dachas were closed. They were in the states of New York and Maryland and were used, according to the White House, for espionage and information gathering.
The Obama administration indicated that the reason for such decisions was the “significant and harmful cyber intervention” of the Russian Federation in the American electoral system.
“Russian cyberactivity was aimed at influencing the elections, undermining faith in democratic and governmental institutions of the United States and questioning the integrity of our electoral process,” the White House statement said at the time.
In addition to diplomats, some officers of the FSB and the GRU (the General Directorate of Intelligence – ed.) And the organizations themselves fell under the sanctions.
Russia rejected any accusations and promised to respond. And soon she closed the Anglo-American school in Moscow, where the children of diplomats and foreign citizens who lived in the Russian capital studied.
Why did Russia expel 755 people?
Moscow understood that it was impossible to ignore the expulsion of diplomats from America.
The problem was that the staff of American diplomatic missions in Russia is much more (1,200) than the expelled Russians in the diplomatic missions of America (455). And that if you send the same 35 people, the effect will be very minimal.
Therefore, the Russian Foreign Ministry on July 28, 2017 decided to “expel” from the country already 755 people, so to speak, “equalize the composition” and bring the number of diplomats “in exact correspondence.” Reducing the state will affect not only Moscow, but also consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok. The general staff of the diplomatic mission will be reduced by 62%, the Washington Post reported.
But the problem is that among 755 people only a small part – actually diplomats, and most of them – wage employees-Russians who automatically fell under the fire. Among them are translators, builders, contractors, drivers, etc. It is noteworthy that the alleged spying was also called a formal reason for such measures in the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The reaction of the former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul about the expulsion of 755 “diplomats”
In response to the closure of Russian embassy dachas in the US, the Russian Federation from August 1 “suspended the use by the US Embassy in Russia of all storage facilities on Dorognaya Street in Moscow and the dacha in Serebryany Bor.”
So the conflict came to the next level, and the ball again moved to half the field of the United States. And this is how the Americans responded to the Russians: on August 21, the US Embassy in Russia on its website announced the termination of visa issuance to Russians in all cities except Moscow.
The procedure for issuing “nonimmigrant visas to US consulates in Russia will be suspended indefinitely,” the embassy stressed and added that the decision was made in response to Russia’s demand to reduce the number of diplomats.
Why did the US require the Russian Federation to close three diplomatic buildings?
On August 31, 2017, the State Department demanded that the Russian Federation close the three diplomatic facilities before September 2: the Consulate General in San Francisco and the trade missions in Washington and New York.
The reason is very simple – since the number of diplomats and hired employees is already equal (for 455 people), in America they decided to “level” and the number of buildings functioning on the balance of embassies. When they looked, it turned out that the Russians in the US had three more buildings than the Americans in Russia (six against three). Without thinking twice, the US State Department demanded that the Russian Federation close the consulate in San Francisco and two trade missions in New York and Washington. The number of diplomats has not diminished.
With the building in San Francisco came an incident and a whole story: the day when the diplomats had to leave it, from there poured black smoke, giving rise to a bunch of conspiracy theories about the cause of its occurrence. There is an assumption that the Russians at the last moment decided to burn off dirt. Indirect confirmation of this can be the fact that the firemen were not allowed inside, as well as an inarticulate explanation of the Russian Foreign Ministry about the “conservation of the building.”
As State Department spokesman Heather Neunert said, “Moscow’s demands for a reduction in the composition of the American diplomatic mission have been fully met, each country has three consulates.”
At the same time, the Foreign Ministry recalled that the closure of trade missions exempts only a part of the buildings occupied by Russians, and hence further “cuts” are still possible. If the escalation continues, then the matter can reach the embassies and the ambassadors’ withdrawal “for consultations” without returning. And this will mean a complete break in relations. In any case, such an “exchange of courtesies” can last a long time.