Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that he could order a further reduction of U.S. diplomatic staff inside his country, leaving open the possibility in the wake of the State Department’s order last week that Russia close multiple diplomatic compounds.
Putin said the U.S. decision last Thursday to order the Russian facilities closed was “their right,” but complained that it had been done in a “clearly boorish manner.” He said the Russian foreign ministry will go to court in the U.S. to fight the closures, which include a consulate general and official residence in San Francisco as well as annex buildings in Washington and New York, both of which hosted trade missions.
“The only thing is that it was done in such a clearly boorish manner. That does not reflect well on our American partners,” Putin said at a press conference in China, according to a Reuters report. “But it’s difficult to conduct a dialogue with people who confuse Austria and Australia. Nothing can be done about it. Probably such is the level of political culture of a certain part of the U.S. establishment.”
“As for our buildings and facilities, this is an unprecedented thing,” he continued. “This is a clear violation of Russia’s property rights. Therefore, for a start, I will order the Foreign Ministry to go to court – and let’s see just how efficient the much-praised U.S. judiciary is.”
The State Department’s order that Russia close its facilities was matched with an announcement that it had met Russian demands to decrease staffing levels inside Russia to 455. In its announcement, the State Department said it hoped Russia would not further escalate with another diplomatic step and that the closure order would allow the U.S. and Russia to achieve diplomatic “parity” by giving the two nations three consulate generals each in the other’s nation.
Russia, with its staff reduction order, had also claimed to be seeking parity with the U.S., a step that followed former President Barack Obama’s order that the Kremlin close two diplomatic facilities in Maryland and New York in response to its meddling in last year’s presidential election.
On Monday, Putin said the U.S. had miscalculated with its latest closure order by including staff working in Russia’s mission to the United Nations as part of its U.S. staff. Thus, Putin said, the latest U.S. order had left Russia with fewer U.S.-based diplomatic staff than the 455 working for the State Department in Russia.
“We reserve the right to take a decision on the number of U.S. diplomats in Moscow. But we won’t do that for now. Let’s wait and see how the situation develops further,” he said.