Threats against US representations | Putin’s attack is particularly detrimental to Russians
Vladimir Putin personally announced in the Rossija state how many employees in the US representations in Russia are concerned: ” 755 of them have to stop their work.” This is a “tangible step”.
The measure is the Russian response to the sanctions of the US Congress. It was only announced as a slice. On Friday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs moved forward. It was said that “the US side is expected to reduce the number of US diplomatic and technical personnel by September 1, up to the level of Russian in the US. There are currently 455 employees. What the word “suggest” means, however, nobody wanted to say so right.
Putin became more concrete now. What his announcement means – six questions and answers:
1. Who is affected by the withdrawal of US personnel?
“Putin has 755 US diplomats,” said reports. The newspaper “Vedomosti” chose the title: “The expulsion of US diplomats is one of the greatest in history”. 755 US councilor sounds dramatic. That’s probably how it should be. But most of the people concerned are neither diplomats nor other US citizens who have to leave the country.
The US has four missions in Russia: the Embassy in Moscow, as well as the consulates in St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg and Vladivostok. So far neither Russian authorities nor the American Embassy have published accurate figures on US personnel in Russia. Putin spoke on Sunday of a total of more than 1000 employees. According to a report from the US Department of State , 1279 employees worked at the sites, with only 345 US diplomats. On the other hand, 934 were local employees, so Russians.
In contrast to Russia, which has hardly any local staff at its missions abroad, the US employs a lot of local people: they take care of visa applications, work in specialist departments as well as translators, drivers or cooks. So it will be mainly Russians who are affected by Putin’s decision and who are looking for a new job.
2. How many American diplomats have to leave Russia?
This is open. But even if Moscow demands that Russia and the US have to work on their own terms – including the same number of diplomatic staff in the two countries – it is hard to assume that Russia will make too much cuts. After all, Moscow is still interested in an exchange with Washington, which itself signaled Putin once again. However, the exchange channels that only work when sufficient diplomats are in the country have to work.
3. What does the reduction of personnel mean?
Putin’s announcement will severely limit the work of US missions. This will also be felt by Russian citizens. The former American ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, has already pointed out that visas for travel to the USA will have to be waited longer than before.
4. What do the Russian counter-measures still include for steps?
US diplomats will no longer be able to use deposits in the south of Moscow and a dacha from Tuesday. This is located in the recreational area Serebryany Bor in the north-west of the Russian capital on the river Moskwa. The National TV screened pictures of a drone showing a large territory with a flat one-storey building, barbecue, wooden houses and trees.
What is in the warehouse, a corrugated iron building, is not known. In the state media pictures were published as vehicles with diplomatic marks left the guarded and fenced terrain.
5. Why does Putin announce the steps now?
Monthly, Putin has left the sanctions of former President Barack Obama unanswered. This was shortly before leaving office reported 35 Russian diplomats in December and two Russian property in the states of Maryland and New York closed. This was a reaction to the findings of the US intelligence agencies, which accuse Moscow of interference in the US presidential election.
Now Putin will and must demonstrate strength after months of waiting, probably also from domestic considerations. Next elections will be held in March. Although Putin and Donald Trump finally met at the beginning of July, the Kremlin hardly took a step further. The disappointment of the weak US president, who is critical of the sanctions, but whose influence and design possibilities are very limited, is great. Moscow still can not make use of the two closed properties in the US despite intensive efforts.
And, most recently, a week ago, the US Congress also decided to impose a new sanction against Russia , which, among other things, made it difficult for Russian companies to access credit again. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov spoke of an “ anti-Russian orgy in Congress”. Putin can not accept this development, says a provocation: “I thought it was time to show that we, too, could not leave anything without an answer.” But the Russian president did not mention the US president explicitly.
6. Is there now a sanctioning war?
At the very least, Putin is threatening. There are enough possibilities for new sanctions, Washington should take action again, the President said without being too concrete. He hoped to be able to forgo further steps, he added. Economically, Moscow can hardly harm the US. However, the situation is different when Russia declares other NGOs to be agents or, for example, completely suspends cooperation in Syria.
Putin is holding everything open. It increases the pressure on the US – and thus the risk of a “diplomatic war”, as the Russian foreign policy expert Feodor Lyukyanov fears. Other observers warn of a new “how-you-me-so-I-dir” exchange as in the days of the cold war.
So far, the US Department of State has expressed a rather reserved attitude. This may also be related to the fact that Russia’s measures, even if they are sold internally as an equivalent response to the US sanctions, are rather manageable. The US dacha in Moscow is rather modest compared to the Russian property in Maryland with 33 rooms, wine cellar and tennis court (purchase price 1.2 million dollars in 1972).
Nevertheless, it is expected in Russia that there will be a response from Washington – precisely because of the strong reduction in US embassy staff.
Moscow will hardly be left unanswered.