The Russians are now beginning to count the cost of tit-for-tat played since Trump agreed to Congressional sanctions against Moscow. An article in Kommersant – “Pod pritselom pariteta” – which incidentally finally acknowledges that Putin had calculated on a Trump victory “abruptly” altering the course of relations today weighs the likely consequences of Kremlin defiance.
At the beginning of September US Secretary of State Tillerson will announce retaliation against Moscow’s drastic measures restricting those employed by the US embassy and consulates in Russia (down to 455 out of 1200), which was in turn punishment for Obama expelling 35 Russian diplomats from US soil on 29 December 2016. This much was made plain to Foreign Minister Lavrov in Manila.
It now seems that retaliation will take the form of reducing the number of Russian consulates in the United States from four – New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Houston – down to three. The Americans themselves have only three consulates in Russia – St Petersburg, Ekaterinburg and Vladivostok.
So such a move has every appearance of enforcing equality. The issue is which US city is chosen. For the Russians Silicon Valley, quite apart from the idyllic weather and the wine, makes San Francisco a must; Seattle, always under something of a cloud, houses Microsoft; and New York is, well, New York. Only subtropical Houston might be an acceptable sacrifice if it is to be a Russian choice. How tough Tillerson wants to appear will, of course, determine who actually gets to choose.