U.S. Works to Keep Russia Mission Running With Staff Down 90%
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. has cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by about 90% in the last four years, paring back to only the most basic services, according to a senior State Department official, as relations between Washington and Moscow continue to languish.
Consulates in Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok are shuttered, and a Russian decree that the U.S. could no longer employ Russian nationals meant the loss of dozens of staff. The U.S. now employs about 120 people overall, down from 1,200 in early 2017, the official told reporters on customary condition of anonymity.
Those cuts mean the U.S. has had to suspend almost all visa services for Russians and in some cases only has one or two technicians to handle basic maintenance of buildings and technology, the person said, adding that the situation had become “a serious problem.”
The official’s comment marked the first time the U.S. has detailed the full diplomatic cost of the more adversarial relationship with Russia. The two sides have expelled each other’s diplomats, levied sanctions and exchanged condemnations in a series of tit-for-tat moves dating back to former President Barack Obama’s move to expel 35 Russian diplomats and shut Russian compounds that were being used for “intelligence-related purposes,” the U.S. said at the time.
Tensions continue to plague the U.S.-Russia relationship despite a summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in June. During the summit, Biden handed Russia a list of 16 types of critical infrastructure that should be off-limits from hacking. The official said it was too soon to tell if the summit would lead to any improvement in the countries’ relationship.
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