Russia-US relations reach ‘hot phase of diplomatic war’


Diplomatic relations with Russia took a turn for the worse on Thursday when the State Department ordered the Kremlin to shutter its consulate in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington and a consular annex in New York City. Moscow was given a mere 48 hours to comply.

Russia responded almost immediately and pointed out that the escalation of tensions lied solely at the feet of the Trump administration.

“[…] it wasn’t Russia that started the escalation,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized. Although the Kremlin has not yet announced which retaliatory measures it would take, we shouldn’t have to wait for too long. Indeed, Lavrov is reported to have already warned Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the Kremlin would “closely study” the State Department’s latest decision and would get back to Washington with its response in due course.

During the presidential campaign, President Trump pledged to pursue warmer relations with Russia but it looks as though our commander in chief may be the only person in Washington who is keen to resume a normal dialogue with the Putin administration.

In early August, Mr. Trump had to reluctantly sign the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) which received overwhelmingly support in both houses of Congress.

At the end of July, President Vladimir Putin ordered the Trump administration to recall hundreds of its diplomats and technical staff after the CAATSA was adopted. The move was actually long overdue.

In a statement released on Thursday, the State Department pointed out that Washington had fully complied with the Kremlin’s July 30 decision and had reduced the size of its diplomatic mission in Russia. Ironically, the Department also noted that Putin’s decision was “unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries” even though the Russian president was only responding to Obama’s decision last December to expel 35 Russian diplomats and close down two embassy summer houses. The Department’s cleverly drafted statement – “in the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians” – also suggests that Moscow has been the bad guy all along.

The statement goes on to hope that additional retaliatory actions can be avoided although it stresses that “further action [could be taken] as necessary and as warranted.”

Senior Russian parliamentarian Leonid Slutsky described Washington’s move as unfair and akin to “diplomatic war.”

“It’s a highly unjust step. It means that the U.S. is declaring the hot phase of diplomatic war,” Slutsky told Russian news agencies.

We now patiently await the Kremlin’s retaliatory measures.