US officials may have described its order that Russia close its consulate in San Francisco and diplomatic annexes in New York and Washington by Saturday as a fair response to the slashing of the number of American diplomatic staff in Russia, but that's not how Moscow sees it. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday promised a "tough response" to an order that he suggests came "totally out of the blue to hurt us," reports the AP. "We sincerely want the political atmosphere to normalize," but "it takes two to tango," Lavrov added, per the Moscow Times. The US statement announcing the order, however, touted the move as one in quest for "parity" following the expulsion of hundreds of US officials in an "unwarranted and detrimental" action by Russia.
A State Department rep said the US hoped to "avoid further retaliatory actions by both sides" so they could work toward "improved relations," though she added the US "is prepared to take further action as necessary." The AP notes that the State Department hasn't expelled any Russian officials, meaning those employed at the to-be-closed offices can be reassigned elsewhere in the US. But others may be negatively affected: The San Francisco consulate is "a hub for Russians on the West Coast" who already faced lengthy wait times to renew passports and verify business documents, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, noting US-Russia business relations may now suffer. (Read more Russia stories.)