U.S.-Russia exchange of diplomatic blowsVolodymyr Horbach
The United States of America decided to close down the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in San Francisco, as well as two diplomatic facilities in New York and Washington DC. And the reason that the U.S. requires Russia to limit its diplomatic presence in American cities lies on the surface: it is a step in response to Moscow's move to cut the number of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia to 455 people.
So in this case, the Americans went for a mirror response. Apparently, the United States has counted not only the number of diplomatic staff, but also the number of Russian consular facilities in the country...
San Francisco, the city where the Americans "offered" Russians to close their consulate, is a rather specific one. It is located on the Pacific coast, that is, quite far from the capital. And since this consulate serves Russian citizens, the move will definitely create some problems for them. In addition, we can say that this is the territory of the Silicon Valley, where most talented programmers work and a variety of high-tech firms operate. Therefore, it is likely that Washington has decided to limit the diplomatic presence of Russians there, including, on the grounds of countering technological espionage and in order to complicate the efforts of Russian intelligence.
Now the parties have had their exchange of blows. Of course, they could keep a status quo at this point for a while. But if the Russians continue to escalate the situation and go for yet another response, the Americans will be forced to react.
In any case, the closure of consulates is an unpleasant thing. This is an indication that bilateral relations between the two countries are in a really poor state and they keep on degrading. But this is not such a radical step as the rupture of diplomatic relations or the declaration of war. This is something between the expulsion of spies and the cessation of diplomatic relations.
So what's next? Will this "diplomatic war" between Russia and the United States escalate further? Now the parties have had their exchange of blows. Of course, they could keep a status quo at this point for a while. But if Russians continue to escalate the situation and go for yet another response, the Americans will be forced to react.
In general, the issue of Russian-American relations will remain tense for a rather long time. At least until the U.S. investigation into Russian interference with the American election campaign is completed. That is, while Russiagate continues, these tensions in the bilateral relations will prevail, which, of course, will affect diplomatic ties.
Volodymyr Horbach is a political analyst at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation