Yuri Rogulev: "America closed symbol of Russian-US relations"
Yesterday, the United States took another aggressive step in the war against Russian diplomatic mission: State Department demanded to close Russian Consulate General in San Francisco until September 2, as well as that the facilities of Russian trade missions in Washington and New York. The director of the Roosevelt Center for the Study of US at the M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Yuri Rogulev, spoke about what this step means for Russian-American relations in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- How will the closure of Russia's Consulate General in San Francisco complicate the lives of Russians on the west coast of the United States?
- Although I don't know all statistics, it's clear that California is the states with one of the largest number of Russian citizens and one of the biggest Russian-speaking population, including representatives of both old and new Russian immigration. That's why the closure of Consulate General is important, especially since it was one of the first Russian diplomatic missions: it opened in the beginning of the 19th century, when Fort Ross operated there, and the Consulate itself operated in San Francisco starting from 1852. In other words, it is a historically established region of Russia's ties with the United States, and the closure of this particular Consulate General is symbolic to some extent, and it's extremely negative.
Overall, our diplomatic missions in the US work quite effeciently and create as little inconveniences for Russians as possible. For example, you can sent documents by mail, you don't have to go there personally. The only difficulty that will likely arise now is that it will take more time to process all requests. After all, it's one thing to send documents to your state, and another thing is to send them to Seattle or New York. Now the interaction with consulates will take more time.
- What will happen to trade missions that lost their facilities?
- It will create inconveniences for the work of Russia's trading missions. Since they're not closed, they will have to work elsewhere, adjust their activities. It is important to note that both the closure of Consulate General and this measure are not the same as expulsion of diplomats who worked there - they all stay in the US, but now they will work differently.
- What will this diplomatic conflict lead to?
- In the end it will lead to a dead end. Nothing good will come out of it. If countries continue to restrict diplomatic missions, there will be one ambassador and two assistants. Is this the level of civilized relations of the 21st century, when it comes to contacts between representatives of different layers of society, be it culture, science, students, sports? By reducing our contacts, we only create difficulties for people. Of course, the relations between Russia and the US always had ups and downs. Right now they are in a state of decline, and soon we will look at their bottom.
- How can Russia respond to this step?
- Of course, it is necessary to respond. It's not that we have to respond just for the sake of retribution. America's behavior is unfriendly, even vindictive. As I said, Americans knew that this is the oldest consulate and a symbol of Russian-American relations, and they took this into account when they were making this decision. In addition, right now Russian employees are in very tough conditions: they had to vacate premises in just two days. It's Consulate General, and just like with any diplomatic mission there are a lot of documents, passports, visas, technical services, communication departments, equipment. It's very hard to deal with it in a day. So Russia's response is inevitable, but I hope it will be reasonable and that it won't lead this conflict to a new stage.
- Is it possible to get out of this deadlock?
- Unfortunately, I don't see many options, because the position of American side has a clear course towards deterioration of relations with Russia. If one side has no desire to improve relations, then it is impossible to achieve it through bilateral cooperation. As long as they follow this course, nothing will get better. I believe that the focus on Russian factor is the largest strategic mistake of the United States after Colin Powell's speech. It's hard to say who was the initiator and came up with the idea to use Russian factor so often, but in any case, it's a wrong position. One day Washington will have to admit this mistake, just like it did with Iraq.