The United States on Thursday ordered Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco and two other installations in two days, a move Moscow greeted with “regret,” as relations between the nuclear-armed powers took another dive.
The State Department said the decision was made “in the spirit of parity,” after Moscow in July ordered a dramatic reduction of US diplomatic staff in Russia.
At the start of Donald Trump’s presidency in January, the Republican leader said he hoped for improved relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
But after the US Congress approved new economic sanctions against Moscow over its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, Putin ordered drastic cuts in US staff in retaliation.
Along with the San Francisco consulate, the installations ordered closed were a chancery annex in Washington, where Moscow has a giant embassy complex, and a consular annex in New York.
“The United States has fully implemented the decision by the government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
“We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries,” she added, noting that, with the closures ordered, “both countries will remain with three consulates each.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed his “regret” over the move after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him to announce the decision. The pair will meet in September in New York.
The Consulate-General of Russia in San Francisco, California, is one of three installations to be ordered shut by the US.
“Moscow will examine the new measures announced by the Americans in detail after which our reaction will be announced,” Lavrov’s ministry said.
The consulate itself called the move an “unfriendly step” by US authorities, and said it would hit Russian nationals “hard.”
Last year, the consulate issued more than 16,000 visas to US citizens.
A senior US administration official said on condition of anonymity that the decision would not translate into the expulsion of Russian diplomats; those who work in the buildings to be closed can be transferred to other outposts in the US.