Russia expert: Expect U.S. diplomats to be kicked out in retaliation

Mar 27, 2018, 9:59 AM | Updated: 10:29 am

consulate , Russia...

A person, who refused to give their name, checks a sign on the door of the Russian consulate office stating that the office is closed and not accepting any new passport applications in Seattle. (AP Photo/Eugene Johnson)

(AP Photo/Eugene Johnson)

When the Trump administration on Monday said the Russian Consulate in Seattle would close along with the expulsion of its staff, experts on the two countries’ perpetually tense relationship immediately predicted one certain outcome: Russian retaliation.

RELATED: Why it’s suddenly not OK for Russian spies to be here

“I expected they’ll expel an equivalent number of American diplomats,” said Scott Radnitz, a Russia expert and an associate professor at the University of Washington. “The Russian government actually put out a poll on Twitter (Monday) asking people which American consulate they should shut down.”

The winner so far: Vladivostok.

The announcement of the closure of the local Russian Consulate and the expulsion of 60 members of the country’s diplomatic staff came after the country was accused of poisoning a former Russian spy who was living in London. The British government immediately expelled a host of Russian diplomats and other European countries soon followed suit.

The move by the U.S. — and the recent provocation by the Russians — slid the countries’ diplomatic relationship into Cold War status.

But cold doesn’t mean frozen, Radnitz explained. The Seattle Consulate, while important to Russian nationals across the western United States, is considered a second-tier diplomatic outpost. It isn’t nearly the same gesture as closing the Russian Embassy in Washington D.C. or the large consulate in New York City, he said.

Even so, shuttering it and kicking staff out of the country is designed to send a message.

“I think what is surprising about this is the magnitude of the response — especially from the U.S.,” Radnitz said. “Trump had mostly been seen as kind of weak and unassertive in his response to the things Russia has been doing.

“And so to expel 60 diplomats and to close a consulate is actually a pretty surprisingly large response from the U.S.”

Locally, and in the western United States, the closed consulate is going to create headaches for the sizable Russian population. Approximately 15,000 Russians live in Washington state and another 66,000 live in California.

Since last August, when the Trump Administration closed the San Francisco Russian Consulate, Russians living in the western U.S. have depended on the Seattle office for passports and other matters.

But with the closure of the office in another six days, that work will be handled by the Houston or New York consulates. As for the Russian staff at the Seattle office, they are now deemed “persona non grata” in diplomatic terms and must leave the country.

“We’ll likely see the same number of American diplomats returning from Russia shortly,” Radnitz said.

MyNorthwest News

Image: The broken steering column of a car recently stolen by a group of teenagers and a 12-year-ol...

James Lynch

Teenagers, 12-year-old charged with violent crime spree in Seattle

King County prosecutors announced charges against three teenagers and a 12-year-old child for a crime spree earlier this month in Seattle.

8 hours ago

Image: The Auburn Police Department and Kings County Sheriffs Deputies responded to an incident in ...

Steve Coogan

Suspect dead in Auburn after eviction order leads to officer involved shooting

The King County Sheriff's Office confirmed its deputies were involved in an officer involved shooting Friday morning in Auburn.

12 hours ago

Image: Traffic on Interstate 5 passes through downtown on Nov. 28, 2013, in Seattle. Seattle, locat...

Steve Coogan

If you haven’t already left for the holiday weekend, you’re in trouble

AAA notes that traveling by car is appealing for many during a holiday weekend because of the flexibility it provides. But it brings traffic.

13 hours ago

spd chief leave...

Frank Sumrall

SPD’s assistant chief placed on administrative leave

The Assistant Chief of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) has been placed on administrative leave, according to Police Chief Adrian Diaz.

19 hours ago

constitutional unlawful detainer...

Matt Markovich

How does Washington fix its eviction case backlog? A constitutional change is needed

King County is struggling with this workload due to a constitutional requirement that unlawful detainer cases must be heard by a constitutional commissioner.

21 hours ago

king county gangs...

James Lynch

Are big time gangs operating in King County?

After a string of shootings, King County prosecutors believe the region is suffering from a gang problem, but it's more complicated than it seems.

21 hours ago

Russia expert: Expect U.S. diplomats to be kicked out in retaliation