Russia may reduce the number of entry points US diplomats may use, rescind their special parking privileges, and reduce the number of diplomats who can move around the entire country
Since the Crimean referendum in 2014, both the United States and Russia have been playing tit-for-tat on the equality game board. The US and EU imposed sanctions after disagreeing that the Crimean people voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia. Russia followed suit, roughly matching sanction for sanction. Fair is fair, or are peoples not equal?
This game reminds me a bit of Sharespeare’s play ‘Measure for Measure’, neither a tragedy, comedy, rather a bit of both with no defined timeline. Some may not be aware of the fact that American and Russian diplomats have to use certain specific entry points when travelling either to the USA or Russia. Russia allows for more entry points for American diplomats than the US does for Russian diplomats. Perhaps the next tit-for-tat may be reducing their current number and include Sevastopol and Simferopol (Crimea) to reach a entry point balance. Who says this game has no sense of humor? Interestingly enough the EU member states are not at the table playing this game, it is a Washington script.
Over the years the matter of cars and diplomatic plates have stirred up some dust and emotions from time to time both in New York, Washington as well as in Moscow and St. Pete. Parking fines, infractions, and so on. It may very well be that the next tit-for-tat move in this game will be to democratize parking spaces for diplomatic personnel. Today, American embassies in Moscow and other cities could be deprived of their special parking spaces, which are now allocated around the perimeter of embassy and consulate buildings. That might be overkill on the side of equality as in the USA apparently there are no such parking areas for Russian diplomats and could be seen as an attempt to equalize the working conditions of Russian and American diplomats. Solidarity is wonderful, is it not?
Another move in this game may be to limit the movement of diplomatic personnel. Today, the senior representatives of the US diplomatic missions are entitled to unimpeded movement. Russian diplomats at senior levels have the same right, but the number of Russians with such a right is less than that of their American counterparts, which does not correspond to the principle of parity.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow intends to equalize the working conditions of American diplomats in Russia and their Russian counterparts in the United States. "If the US have taken parity as a criterion, we are now considering the conditions in which US overseas institutions in Russia and Russia’s in the United States work, and we will bring these conditions in full accord with what is called parity".
We should remember the row this first week in September when the US insisted that the Russian Consulate in San Francisco be shut down. Then the scandalous search of the diplomatic premises, which followed. It seems this was a gamed tit-for-tat response to Russia’s demand to equalize personnel working at the US diplomatic missions in Russia to the same number of Russians working at their missions in the US, i.e. 455.
There is a certain logic to reducing diplomatic staff. After all sanctions reign, not diplomacy, then why so many diplomats? Surely if the product of sanctions is to gut trade and economic development, then why so much staff? Surely not to assist trade expansion.
It must be a sign of the times when “sanctions”, major or petty are the new “go-to” thing to be considered by diplomats. In another time, it would have been a matter of professional pride to fully plumb the diplomatic alternatives and bags or tricks before embarking on extreme measure like “sanctions”. They are after everything is said and done, the last step before actual conflict.