Diplomatic tensions continue to escalate between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.
Following a recent, Kremlin-ordered trimming of American diplomatic facilities in Russia last month, the United States responded Thursday, ordering the closing of Russian consulates in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., according to an Associated Press report.
In response to U.S. diplomatic and economic sanctions (that were themselves retaliation for Russian interference in the 2016 election), Russia demanded in July that the United States slice its diplomatic staff in the Eurasian giant by 755. The New York Times described the move as “ripped right from the Cold War playbook.”
Asked about the move in August, President Trump at first offered a puzzling, seemingly sarcastic response, thanking Putin for the reduction:
“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll … I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” Trump told reporters Thursday at his New Jersey golf club.
However, it appears that the president and his administration have worked on a more robust response, suddenly unveiled Thursday with the consulate announcement:
The U.S. on Thursday abruptly ordered Russia to shutter its San Francisco consulate and close offices in Washington and New York within the next 48 hours, intensifying tensions between the former Cold War foes. The Trump administration described its action as retaliation for the Kremlin’s “unwarranted and detrimental” demand earlier this month that the U.S. cut its diplomatic staff in Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did not indicate whether Moscow will continue the tit-for-tat escalation, saying they “would react to the decision once [they have] finished analyzing it,” according to the report.
Trump’s response in August, which sarcastically considered Russia’s expulsion of diplomats a courtesy, elicited criticism and confusion from commentators and officials across the political spectrum. However, behind the scenes, the president and his administration made sure to return the favor to Russia.
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