JoAnna Mitchell, Staff Reporter
The U.S. has ordered the closure of three Russian diplomatic facilities in retaliation for being forced to downsize its own diplomatic presence in Russia by 60%.
The American order, issued on Thursday, August 31, 2017, called for the closure of Russia’s oldest consulate general in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington D.C. and a consular annex in New York City by the following Saturday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry that he “expressed regrets over the escalation of tensions in bilateral relations, which were not initiated by us.”
Russia ordered the decrease in U.S. diplomats on Sunday, July 30, days after Congress approved sanctions to punish the Kremlin for election tampering, the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s continued military presence in the Ukraine.
“We waited for quite a long time, that perhaps something will change for the better. We held out hope that the situation would somehow change. But, judging by everything, if it changes, it will not be soon,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin on Rossiya 1 Television, a state-run television channel. The Kremlin claims its expulsion of U.S. diplomats was to seek “parity” in the number of diplomats working in either country.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that the White House wishes to “halt the downward spiral” of relations between the countries.
“We’re going to look for opportunities to do that, but we’re also going to make sure that we make decisions that are best for our country,” Sanders said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stated that relations between the two countries could be at their worst since the Cold War.
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, suggested on Sunday that President Donald J. Trump may not serve a full four-year term.
“Not all American presidents have reached the end of their term. It could be worth remembering, considering the government we are dealing with in today’s historical times,” Zakharova said on Rossiya 1 in an interview which aired 2 days after the closure of the diplomatic centers in the U.S.