Intelligence officers working under "official cover" were particularly targeted as diplomats. But with the reduction in numbers, the wheels of basic diplomacy, involving things like visas, consular services, cultural events and simply talking to people, are slowing down and sometimes coming to a standstill.
The Embassy is fighting for basic operations. This last round will hurt. Of course, morality is also very low, "said Michael A. McFaul, who served as ambassador to Moscow from 201
Even before the expulsion of American diplomats this week, the US waited for a visitor's visa in Moscow, one of the longest in the world It now takes 250 days just to get an appointment with the visa department, compared to four in Beijing and 31 in New Delhi.
"What we call diplomacy is an extremely complex business – it's about culture, visas "consular services, transportation, business and commerce," said Stefano Stefanini, former Italian ambassador to NATO and diplomat in Moscow and Washington. "Traditional diplomacy, the ability to talk to Moscow about politics, is made possible by this" deed for -at "not diminished. But of course the workload will increase for everyone. "
Kori Shake, a former Pentagon and White House official, now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said that ongoing diplomacy in the embassies really matters." Most political affairs can be done in Washington But what is done and is particularly important in authoritarian societies like Russia are American diplomats who support civil society and independent journalists and are personally involved, so that the experience of people with Americans is different from what their government tells them. "
On Thursday morning, a few hours before the Russian Foreign Minister summoned Mr. Huntsman to inform him that he was losing more staff, the United States embassy published a video of Mr. Huntsman on his Twitter account. Feed.
"These are difficult times in Russia-US relationship," he said, adding optimistically that "the doors to dialogue remain open".
The opening, however, is getting tighter, not only because the relationships are so tense, but because there are fewer and fewer people on the earth who are preventing the door from slamming.
Many of the tasks that were occupied The diplomats' time in the past, said Jeremy Shapiro, a former US diplomat who is now at the European Council for Foreign Relations, "can continue without a message." This is modern life. They do not need a message to trade or trade across borders. "
But you need a working embassy that issues visas and provides consular services to Americans abroad who are losing passports, being ambushed or ending up drunk or in hospitals. "It's not diplomacy, but it's very important," he said.
The expulsion of diplomats and the closing of consulates, as the United States has to do in St. Petersburg, "make it difficult for the Russians to come to America and vice versa." It could not be diplomacy in the tradition of Henry Kissinger but it provides "the fine lines of the relationship."
Charles A. Kupchan, who was Europe director of the National Security Council under President Obama, said that "expulsions have a greater symbolic weight than material weight – diplomacy will continue although the Russians have fewer diplomats in the US and Americans and Europeans less in Russia. "
But there are tangible costs, he said. "The parties are losing some of their eyes and ears, so the quality of coverage is declining, not just intelligence, but also political and economic messages: what's going on the streets, what are the people talking about, and consular services being taken . "
Russia's command on Thursday that Washington will close its consulate in St. Petersburg, by far the largest of the three American consulates in Russia, will throw more sand into the diplomatic machinery as it is actually practiced. It will also leave Washington without eyes and ears in Russia's second-largest city and its main gateway to the West.
Russia wants the consulate to retaliate for Washington's demand that Moscow close its own consulate in Seattle was seen as a nest of spies collecting secrets from Boeing and a nearby naval base, not to mention the High -Tech companies of the area.
The United States Mission to St. Petersburg has probably not been a haven for espionage: it was notoriously uncertain. With walls connected to the Russian-occupied buildings on both sides, it is an unclassified operation without naval guards or a National Security Agency station, said a former American diplomat who worked there during the Cold War. Washington has been calling for a new location for years.
Simon Schuchat, a former diplomat in the Economic Department of the Moscow Embassy, recalled how arbitrarily and arbitrarily the alleged espionage attempt of Russia took place in 2001 during a displacement round. Inevitably, Moscow ordered diplomats who had no connection to espionage
"They tended to opt for people with better language skills," said Mr. Schuchat, adding that "they missed many spies and included many non-spies. " We had to wait about a week for the list to be published. "
The Russians, he said, also took care not to "drive the diplomats out of sections they thought were useful" and left a large NASA presence intact.
One possibility The recent riot is that relations have deteriorated so much in recent years that American diplomats in Moscow have fewer jobs than they do; A long-burgeoning network of diplomatic and other business relations between Russia and the United States has wilted since President Vladimir V. Putin returned to the Kremlin after a four-year term as Prime Minister.
The workload of the Embassy has been drastically reduced prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian orphans – the workload of consular officers handling immigration visas – and a lock on American development workers at the United States Agency for International Development, which operates in Russia.
spared embassy employees from giving briefings, organizing meetings, and hosting cocktail parties.
However, there are still many things like counter-terrorism, space exploration and drug control that Moscow and Washington sometimes work together on. The Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration, NASA and the Department of Agriculture have officials in the Moscow Embassy.
Information Moscow, a handbook of foreign institutions in Moscow, lists 108 accredited American diplomats, but the total number of Americans working in the embassy was much higher.
The last publicly available detailed breakdown included in a 2013 report on the Moscow Mission by the Office of the Inspector General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs put the total number of directly employed American staff in the Embassy at 289, along with 867 foreign employees, mainly Russians who work as driver, guard and in administration and other support jobs.
Most Russians have now gone, struck last July on a command by Mr. Putin in retaliation for the far-reaching sanctions imposed by Congress. Their departure was so heavy on the embassy that it suspended one of their most important functions, the processing of visas, for a certain period of time.
Visas are now being issued again, but so slowly that they have become another point of friction for the two countries, instead of narrowing the gap that separates them.
Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, recently accused Washington of "being dirty" by stopping visas for a Russian wrestling team. At a tournament in Iowa City
her inability to obtain a visa , "extremely outrageous". She said the American embassy told the State Department that she could not handle the Wrestlervisa for reducing personnel from Russia, which she mocked as an excuse to keep the Russians out of a World Cup.
An American embassy spokesman declined to comment on the reasons why the visas had not been granted, but told the Russian media the week in which the Russian Foreign Ministry's message was placed under "significant constraints" and "could not always meet all their many demands, especially for large groups."
Such niggling problems, without war and peace, highlight how routine affairs, which are usually handled easily by a message, have become fuel for mutual accusation and an ever-worsening climate of hostility.
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