White House Orders Russia to Close San Francisco Consulate, Other Annexes

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Trump administration on Thursday ordered Russia to close its San Francisco consulate, along with two annex buildings in New York and Washington, all by Saturday.

The move came in the “spirit of parity” in response to Moscow’s demand for the U.S. to reduce its Russia mission.

“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 spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement. “We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries.”

After Congress overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against Russia last month, the Kremlin responded by ordering the U.S. to shrink its diplomatic and technical staff by half, to 455 people.

According to Nauert, the U.S. has fully implemented that order by removing 755 people from U.S. diplomatic posts in Russia.

President Trump had not promised to retaliate for the expulsion of U.S. diplomatic staff from the country, but instead thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin after the order came down from Moscow.

“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down the payroll, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go a lot of a large number of people, because now we have a smaller payroll,” Trump had said when asked about the move.

Nauert’s statement Thursday afternoon seemed to leave the door open for conciliation between the two sides, tempering the possibility of further retaliation.

“While there will continue to be a disparity in the number of diplomatic and consular annexes, we have chosen to allow the Russian Government to maintain some of its annexes in an effort to arrest the downward spiral in our relationship,” Nauert said.

With the Russian diplomatic closures in the U.S., the State Department said both countries will be left with three consulates each.

Nauert expressed hope that the move would allow both sides to avoid any further retaliatory action in order to “move forward to achieve the state goal of both of our presidents: improved relations between our two countries and increased cooperation on areas of mutual concern.”

The U.S., however, stands ready to respond further, the statement said.

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