U.S. orders Russian Federation to close consulate and two annexes in two days

Posted September 02, 2017

The Cold War throwback of a diplomatic diss signals that President Trump may be losing his argument that the USA should make a priority of improving relations with Russian Federation.

But a diplomatic cable sent to USA overseas posts and obtained by The Associated Press said "limited visa services" are resuming Friday.

"The United States is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted", US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

"We're responding in this instance to the Russian desire for parity in the diplomatic relationship", the official told reporters on background.

The State Dept. added that it hopes both sides will avoid further retaliatory actions, and instead, move forward to improve relations between the USA and Russian Federation.

"We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries", she added, saying that, "both countries will remain with three consulates each".

The United States has consulates in three Russian cities: St. Petersburg; Ekaterinburg; and the far eastern port, Vladivostok.

Russia's expulsion of USA diplomats in July was in response to an Obama administration closure of Russian diplomatic facilities in the US last December.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Thursday to inform him of the US's decision, which must be implemented by September 2, according to the official.

The Kremlin said on Friday that a US decision to close Russia's San Francisco consulate and buildings in Washington and NY pushed bilateral ties further into a blind alley and fuelled a spiral of tit-for-tat retaliatory measures.

The consulate in San Francisco was the "oldest and most established" of the four consulates Russian Federation had operated within the USA, according to the official. Putin refrained from immediate retaliation, hoping Donald Trump would reverse the action once he took over the White House and fulfill his campaign promises to improve U.S. -Russia ties.

Russia's top diplomat insisted Friday that Moscow wasn't interested in quarreling amid an escalating series of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions - accusing the US of "performing a solo breakdance".

The U.S. move, announced on Thursday in Washington, came in reaction to Russia's decision to make the United States cut its number of diplomatic staff in Russian Federation.

The U.S. Congress in July overwhelmingly endorsed a new set of sanctions against Moscow over the alleged election interference and for Russia's actions in Syria and Ukraine.

Lavrov is to meet his USA counterpart Rex Tillerson in September in NY.

However, Putin's move was not the origin of this round of diplomatic row between Russian and the United States and rather a delayed response to former U.S. President Barack Obama's expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and seizure of two Russian diplomatic facilities a year ago out of alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election.