State Department has given Russia two days to close its consulate in San Francisco, and two more offices in Washington and New York:
“In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian government to close its consulate general in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City,” Nauert said. “These closures will need to be accomplished by September 2.”
As we explained before the US has three consulates in Russia, while the latter has four in the US. (Albeit the US in revenge for Russian order to limit the number of diplomatic staff to 455 no longer handles visas in its consulates so the question is what is their purpose at all?)
Thus, in a move that the Russians already predicted, the US is now demanding that Russia likewise brings down the number of its consulates to three. Actually the US is going further since the State Department itself picked out the consulate the Russians are to close (the Russians left the decision which staff to retain to Americans).
So then, the US idea of retaliation against Russia…is to make it more of a hassle for anyone in the south eastern US to get a Russian visa.
That hardly sounds like it will hurt the Russians (except the occasional visitor who loses his passport).
Moreover, it opens up the bitter State Department for more retaliation. If Russia ships the staff in San Francisco home it can demand further cuts in personnel of the US mission in Russia.
This is exactly the scenario we laid out earlier this month:
Applying the new principle of parity against Russia the US could now demand Moscow likewise cuts down the number of its consulates to three.
This is exactly the scenario anticipated by some in the Russian press and possibly the foreign service:
According to Kommersant, one of Russia’s biggest business dailies, Russian diplomats said that they were told that one of their four consulates is on the chopping block. This makes sense because the U.S. has three consulate offices in Russia, including its Embassy in Moscow. Russia, meanwhile, has four consulates.
This would be a clever way to strike back at the Russian mission if it is so inclined, however, the success would be only temporary. If the Russians accompanied the closure of one of the consulates with a reduction in their staff — which they almost certainly would — then they could demand the US reciprocates and cuts down its 455 staff further.