Seattle's Russian Consulate Reportedly a Big Intel Outpost

That's why it's now closed; world awaits Russia's response to mass expulsions
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2018 6:47 AM CDT
Updated Mar 27, 2018 7:01 AM CDT
World Waits for Russia's Response to Mass Explusions
A metal fence surrounds the residence of Russia's consul general Monday in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Russia has yet to take retaliatory action against the US and other nations that are expelling diplomats accused of being intelligence officers, but it sounds like it won't be a long wait. Moscow has condemned the "confrontational policy" and again denied any role in what prompted it—the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. At the very least, Moscow is expected to begin expelling diplomats soon, and the BBC notes that Russia's embassy in the US is hinting via a tweeted survey that at least one American consulate in Russia might be shuttered as well. The Guardian expects Moscow to "respond harshly." Developments:

  • Seattle hassle: The US closed the Russian consulate in downtown Seattle, and the Seattle Times talks to people who had shown up for passport renewals, including one woman who flew in from California, only to be turned away. "It's tense," says one woman. The story also has background on the reason cited for the closure: the consulate's proximity to the Kitsap naval base, home to eight nuclear subs. The Washington Post reports that the consulate is believed to have served as a "key outpost" for Russian intelligence, partly because it was so close to the base.

  • Unprecedented: The coordinated response against Moscow "is unprecedented since the Cold War," writes Robin Wright at the New Yorker, and it "signals the potential for a deeper confrontation that could ripple across other global flashpoints where Western and Russian interests compete." However, she quotes one former US diplomat who points out that Putin "literally cannot afford another Cold War."
  • Russian complaint: That the penalties came on the same day as a horrific mall fire in Russia shows "emotional deafness," says Russia's ambassador to the US, per Russia Today. Anatoly Antonov also is skeptical that the spy poisoning is the full reason for the penalties. “The scale of inflicted damage and the preceding information campaign speak of the fact that it had been planned beforehand—simply postponed for the right moment."
  • Would if they could: New Zealand supports the international action against Moscow but isn't joining in—because it can't find Russian operatives to deport, reports the Telegraph. "We have done a check," says Prime Minister Jacinda Arden. "We don't have Russian undeclared intelligence officers here. If we did, we would expel them."

  • Australia weighs in: The nation not only announced it would expel two diplomats Monday, it warned that it might boycott the 2018 World Cup in Russia, reports Reuters. Australia condemned the "shocking crime" of the poisoning, but the nation's Russian ambassador denied Moscow's link to that and said Australia was only hurting "professional career diplomats," per 9News.
  • The nations on board: The US expulsion of 60 diplomats is by far the most of any nation, and the BBC counts them down: Ukraine (13); Canada (4); France (4); Germany (4); Poland (4); Czech Republic (3); Lithuania (3); Australia (2); Albania (2); Denmark (2); Netherlands (2); Italy (2); Spain (2); Estonia (1); Croatia (1); Finland (1); Hungary (1); Latvia (1); Romania (1); Sweden (1); Norway (1); and Macedonia (1).
  • Not on board: Austria, Greece, and Portugal are among those who say they don't intend to deport any Russians.
(More poisoning stories.)

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