The Trump administration is ordering Russia to shutter a consulate in San Francisco as well as annexes in Washington and New York, the State Department announced Thursday.
The move was positioned as a response “in the spirit of parity” to the Russian government’s order that the United States cut down the number of diplomatic personnel in Russia, which a State spokesman described as “unwarranted and detrimental.”
Moscow is ordered to close the facilities by Saturday.
“The United States has fully implemented the decision by the Government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries.”
Speaking to reporters following the announcement, a senior administration official emphasized that Washington’s ultimate goal is to improve relations with Moscow, not further damage them.
“Our goal is really to find a way to get to better relations between our two countries,” the official said.
But Russia immediately reacted negatively, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accusing the U.S. of escalating tensions and a Kremlin spokesperson promising retaliation.
“We regret the unconstructive stance taken by our counterparts in the United States and, of course, we cannot afford to leave unfriendly, and sometimes hostile steps towards us without retaliation,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
Tillerson informed Lavrov that the U.S. had complied with Russia’s order and is now moving to close the diplomatic and consular facilities in a phone call Thursday, the administration official said.
President Trump has repeatedly voiced a desire for better relations with Moscow, though the latest move could make achieving that more difficult.
“I hope that we do have good relations with Russia,” Trump said at the White House on Monday. “I say it loud and clear, I have…