Escalating tit for tat, US orders Russian consulate closed

The Trump administration said the move constituted its response to the Kremlin’s “unwarranted and detrimental” decision to force the U.S. to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia. The U.S. gave Russia a mere 48 hours to close its San Francisco consulate, along with smaller posts in Washington and New York.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Escalating a diplomatic tit-for-tat, the United States abruptly ordered Russia on Thursday to shutter its San Francisco consulate and close offices in Washington and New York, intensifying tensions between the former Cold War foes. Washington gave Moscow 48 hours to comply.

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. But Moscow declared it a major escalation, with a top Russian lawmaker saying the move heralded “the hot phase of diplomatic war.”

“The United States is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. Still, she said the U.S. hoped both countries could now move toward “improved relations” and “increased cooperation.”

It was a harsh welcome to Washington for new Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov, who arrived only hours after the U.S. announcement. At the airport, Antonov cited a maxim of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin as he urged caution and professionalism.

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“We don’t need hysterical impulses,” Russian news agencies quoted Antonov as saying.

The closures on both U.S. coasts marked perhaps the most drastic diplomatic measure by the United States against Russia since 1986, near the end of the Cold War, when the nuclear-armed powers expelled dozens of each other’s diplomats.

And it comes amid some of the broadest strains in their relationship ever since. The two countries have clashed over the wars in Ukraine and Syria, but most significantly over American allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to boost President Donald Trump’s chances of victory. Investigations continue into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow.

By Saturday, the Russians must close their consulate in San Francisco and an official residence there. Though Russia can keep its New York consulate and Washington embassy, trade missions housed in satellite offices in both of those cities must shut…

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