The relationship between the United States and Russia has been tested again.
Recently, the Trump administration informed the U.S. Congress that it would close the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok, Russia, and suspend the work of the Consulate General in Yekaterinburg.
Once the plan is implemented, it means that the only embassy in Moscow will remain in the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Russia will continue to work. At present, the United States has not announced the specific time of the closure of the above two institutions.
A spokesman for the U.S. State Department also confirmed the news immediately, saying that he would maintain close contact with John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Russia.” The decision of the State Department aims to optimize the U.S. diplomatic team in Russia.” The spokesman said, “The embassy in Moscow will continue to safeguard the core interests and security of American enterprises and citizens in Russia.”
Russia has not announced plans to close diplomatic missions in the United States.
The Trump administration’s move has aroused doubts from some American scholars and politicians. Just a few days ago, Russian President Putin sent a congratulatory telegram to U.S. President-elect Biden after the number of votes in the U.S. electoral college, expressing the hope that Russian-US relations would ease under Biden’s four-year term.
In order to save money?
The U.S. Embassy in Russia said that the decision to close the consulate was due to the consideration of optimizing the embassy’s work. It is estimated that closing the Consulate General of the United States in Vladivostok can save about $3.2 million a year.
According to U.S. media reports, the adjustment of the U.S. diplomatic service in Russia will directly lead to the dismissal of about 33 people at the U.S. Consulate General in Yekaterinburg and other places.
Once the above decision is completed in the parliament, the core information, computers, etc. in the two consulates will be transferred to the embassy in Moscow, and some confidential documents will be destroyed on the spot.
Mike McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, wrote on social media on the 19th, criticizing the closure of the U.S. Consulate General in Russia. He wrote: “The United States should seek ways to strengthen direct contact with Russia, and the presence of these embassies and consulates can help.
For example, strengthen public diplomacy, maintain contact with the Russian people, etc. Some U.S. lawmakers even believe that the Trump administration’s move will weaken the influence of the United States in the Far East.
Russian Congressman Pashkov pointed out that the epidemic has caused some economic problems in the United States, “but it is not enough to close the Consulate General. This is obviously a political decision, indicating signs of regression in bilateral relations.
Continuation of diplomatic conflicts
This is not the first time that a “diplomatic war” has broken out between the United States and Russia.
In the notice, the U.S. State Department said that the closure of the consulate was to “to deal with the staffing problem of the U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia since Russia imposed a limit on the number of U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia in 2017”.
In response to the expulsion of Russian diplomats by the United States and a series of sanctions against Russia, Russia asked the United States in 2017 to reduce the number of diplomats in Russia and equalize the number of diplomats between Russia and the United States.
In 2018, the United States also asked Russia to close its consulate in Seattle, citing the “poisoning” incident of former Russian intelligence officer Skripal.
Russia denied poisoning and took reciprocal measures to demand that the United States close the Consulate General in St. Petersburg. This directly left only three U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia at that time, including embassies.
At that time, U.S. President Trump decided to expel 60 Russian diplomats, 48 of whom were from the Russian Embassy in the United States and the remaining 12 were Russian representatives to the United Nations. At the request of the United States, 21 Western countries “selected sides” in the diplomatic conflict in 2018, expelling a total of about 140 Russian diplomats in major Western countries.
This large-scale expulsion of diplomatic personnel is rare in the development of Russia’s relations with Western countries in recent years.
In addition to expelling diplomatic personnel, the sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe on Russia have not been loosened.
The sanctions not only involve Russian government officials, but also Russian entrepreneurs, financial institutions, etc. have become the targets of sanctions. Just at the beginning of this month, the European Union confirmed the extension of sanctions against Russia through a leaders’ summit.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo also unceremoniously positioned Russia as “enemy of the United States” rather than the “opponent” as it had been said before. Pompeo also said that Russia was “very sure” that Russia was behind a series of major cyber attacks in recent years.
In response, the Russian Embassy in the United States said that the accusations made by the United States against Russia were groundless. Russian President’s Secretary Peskov also made it clear that the hacking of U.S. government departments has nothing to do with Russia.
Putin said at his annual press conference on the 17th that Russian-US relations have long been “mass hostages” of U.S. domestic policy, and rumors about Russian hackers came from the U.S. State Department and intelligence services.
U.S. media quoted Biden’s staff as saying that after Biden takes office, he will punish Russia for alleged cyber espionage against the United States and weaken Russia’s ability to launch hacker attacks in the future. “These punishments will not be limited to financial sanctions”.