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Saturday, March 24, 2018

The cold war turned into “ice”: why the United States close the Russian Consulate

With the diplomatic war between Moscow and Washington received another summary: Americans are required to close by Saturday the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco Is being touted by States as a response to the limitation of the number of employees of the us diplomatic mission in Russia. The answer our country to take this step? And who is to blame in this situation – the past the President Obama who started this conflict before his departure from the White house or the current administration of Donald trump?

photo: AP

“In connection with the decision of the US authorities to close the Consulate General of Russia in San Francisco receiving visitors from 1 St September ends” – this ad appeared on the website of the consular office on Friday.

Under closure in the United States were also two sales offices in Washington and new York. As said the representative of the American foreign Ministry Heather Nauert, to expel Russian diplomats from the country, the U.S. government is not going to, and Russia will retain the footprint of the building, but will not be able to use them for diplomatic missions.

Consulate General in San Francisco posted a message on his official group on Facebook in which he stressed that the decision of the us authorities “hurt” by both Russian and American citizens. The Embassy said that last year it issued more than 16,000 tourist visas for Americans. “Also puzzling terms which the American authorities gave for the closure of the Consulate — two days”, — added in Department.

Citizens who used the services of the Russian Consulate General, were perplexed. Many of them have already handed over the documents for a passport in San Francisco. While the fate of their IDs are unknown, but the Consulate says that all the documents will be transferred to other Russian diplomatic mission in the United States. Outraged residents of the United States and that the closure of the diplomatic corps took place shortly before the world championship on football which will pass in Russia.

One of the victims was Olga, who wrote in the comments: “I Have no words, I panic. In January 2017 registered on a waiting list to receive a new passport… and now the Consulate is closed… So frustrating. Ordinary people suffer from the actions of politicians.” “This irresponsible move by our government — supported her companion in misfortune Roy — I’m an American citizen by birth, but my wife and two daughters are Russian. It makes things harder for us, for our Russian relatives and friends. The unity between our two countries is now more important than in the past. Moreover, the unity between the two world powers is particularly important in light of future threats from the unstable, radical States. I lived during the cold war, and I would not want that my children live it too. And if it happens again, this will be blamed and America.”

– The closure is not only unfriendly, but also inconsistent from the point of view of preservation of system of contacts and relationships including those between citizens, and between businesses of the two countries, between scientific and educational circles, – said the acting Director of IMEMO ran them. Yevgeny Primakov, member of RAS Fedor seminar was chaired by. – Consulate General in San Francisco had many duties, associated not only with the consular work, but also with the development of cultural, scientific and educational ties. Such actions are especially improper and short-sighted in circumstances where the United States sent in a new Ambassador to Moscow, and Russia just sent in a new Ambassador to the United States. In fact, for the two ambassadors, the conditions further complicated, on the one hand, political factors. And on the other hand, additionally grows the load on the Russian Embassy in Washington because need to do many things on the West coast was involved in the Consulate General in San Francisco. It can make the job and the consular Department of the Embassy and diplomats. Problems arise and wanting to go to Russia of U.S. citizens living on the West coast. Suffer and our compatriots living in the United States, people with dual citizenship. Affected will be those areas that even in the context of the cold war it was possible to continue the dialogue. The United States continues to follow a path that is not focused on the preservation of normal relations in the context when the political dialogue is hampered. I do not think that Russia will immediately go to retaliate, I believe that our country has always operated here with a large time lag. We have always used the online consulates to save contacts. The American Consulate working in Russia, and even the downsizing of the Embassy is a measure of a different kind, it is not closing offices in the regions.

– Actions of the American side – this is the legacy of Barack Obama or all of the work of the current administration, trump?

– Hostile actions against the Russian Embassy in the United States began under Obama. Then the media began a completely crazy campaign against the Russian Ambassador and against diplomatic personnel. But, of course, the administration trump here would show more firmness in the desire to preserve a space for dialogue and to use formal diplomatic channels to maintain a network of contacts. But you need to take into account two circumstances. On the one hand, if the administration would trump showed such toughness, she would have faced a lot of resistance at the level of infected Russophobia public opinion in the United States, and Congress, where there are very strong anti-Russian sentiment and where such attempts were immediately associated with the mythical “hand of the Kremlin”. On the other hand, the administration trump decides – quite clumsy methods – very practical task of downsizing government agencies. Including the State Department. It is no coincidence that trump has joked about the downsizing of the American Embassy in Moscow, saying he would be very grateful, because I wanted to cut staff. By the way, trump is very much cut is spending on research and analytical activities of the state Department, including in the Russian direction. It is complaining about the American scientists who worked with the state Department and other agencies. The question arises: what will the cost reduction? To reduce the quality of the examination? It is even more sensitive for bilateral relations decisions? Errors in the Russian direction, is fraught with serious risks?..

Closure of the Consulate General in San Francisco is another episode of the ongoing since December last year a diplomatic conflict between America and Russia.

A trigger for the conflict was signed on December 29, Barack Obama’s decree about introduction of sanctions against Russia in connection with the alleged Moscow’s intervention in the American presidential election in 2016. On the same day the state Department announced a 35 Russian diplomats persona non grata and shut down two diplomatic villas in Maryland and new York. Russia then refrained from retaliatory action, moreover, was made a few gestures that could be interpreted as a desire not to exacerbate the conflict.

But on the background of the U.S. adoption of the law on new anti-Russian sanctions in late July, Moscow proposed to the American side until September 1 to reduce the number of employees of its diplomatic missions in the Russian territory up to 455 people (twice) – the number of Russian diplomats working in the United States. In addition, the Americans banned the use of a dacha in Serebryany Bor and warehouse space on the Road outside.

In a few weeks, the us Embassy announced that, because of the downsizing of state Embassy suspends issuing nonimmigrant visas in Russia till September 1. And after that date for visa can apply only to the Embassy in Moscow (the US Consulate in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok to issue visas will not).

An agreement on the opening of the General Consulate of the USSR in San Francisco (and parallel to the US Consulate General in Leningrad) was reached in the sixties, and in 1971 in San Francisco came to the Soviet Consul General. In 1973, the official opening of the present building of the Consulate on green street.

In fact, the history of the Russian consular presence in San Francisco dates back to the XIX century, during the activities of the Russian-American company. In 1852, the Vice-Consul of the Russian Empire in San Francisco, was appointed businessman William Montgomery Stuart, then this position was held by Peter Kostromitinov. In 1915, at the post of Consul General in San Francisco was appointed career diplomat Artemy of Vyvodtsev, which was the last pre-revolutionary Russia’s representative in these parts.

After the establishment of diplomatic relations between America and the Soviet Union, in 1934 in San Francisco earned Consulate General of the USSR – but under the flares of the cold war, it (and the Soviet Consulate General in new York) was closed in 1948. It took two decades to resume his work. For what period of time will be closed the Consulate this time, it seems, nobody knows.

Meanwhile, the process of the departure of American diplomats from Russia. On request “MK” to answer how much American and how many Russian citizens were among the retrenched employees of diplomatic missions, the press service of the United States Embassy in Moscow, responded simply: “it is our established practice, we do not comment on questions regarding details of the staffing of Embassy of the USA in Russia”.

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