The US State Department has admitted in its statement on the US closing the Russian Consulate in San Francisco that the move comes amid a “downward spiral in our relationship.” This is an unusual admission that relations are both at an all-time low, and continuing to worsen at a rapid pace.
While the latest hostile US move comes with some lip-service about the US hoping to “improve relations,” this doesn’t seem sincere expectation. Rather, the State Department’s comments seem more interested in trying to shift the blame.
The State Department credited itself for only closing one consulate and two annexes, saying they “have chosen to allow the Russian government to maintain some of its annexes” to try to keep the situation getting worse.
One official was quoted as saying that “it is our hope that the Russians will recognize that they were the ones who started the discussion” on facility closures, citing the recent US loss of a warehouse in Moscow and a vacation house.
Absent in all official US comments were the December 2016 US moves to expel Russian diplomats and seize two vacation houses. While Russia couched their closures as retaliation for that, US officials are choosing to ignore December and present today’s moves as retaliation for Russia’s closures.
The comments about hoping for better relations don’t appear realistic, as the closure of a consulate is a major step forward in escalation of tensions, and will almost certain oblige Russia to take further moves. These tit-for-tat measures show no sign of ending any time soon. The best we can hope is that it doesn’t further escalate.