A common narrative presented by opponents of President Donald Trump is that he is, at best, too friendly with Russia, and at worst, actively working with the adversarial nation to further his own personal or business interests.
If that was ever the case, it doesn't appear to be so anymore, as the Trump administration announced Thursday that Moscow will be required to shut down diplomatic posts in several major American cities in a continued tit-for-tat of Cold War-esque maneuvering between the two nations.
Which posts are closing down? The consulate general in San Francisco. An annex in Washington, D.C. Another annex in New York City.
Why is the Trump administration doing this? Russian President Vladmir Putin ordered the expulsion of more than 700 U.S. diplomats after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia in July. Those sanctions were the result of Russian interference in the 2016 election, human rights violations, the annexation of Crimea and military operations in the Ukraine.
What exactly did these posts do? The consulate and annexes served as posts where official Russian representatives worked to maintain Russian interests in their home country and the United States, particularly in issues of trade and diplomatic relations. It's important to note that this move does not remove any diplomatic personnel from the U.S., and it does not impact Russia's main embassy in Washington, D.C.
What does this mean for U.S. relations with Russia? It's unclear. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson emphasized that the move was reciprocal and does not represent an escalation of tensions. Russia, however, doesn't seem to agree with that assessment. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov reportedly "expressed regret at the escalation of tension in bilateral relations" in a statement. A Russian response is possible once they evaluate this move by the U.S.