America's idea of payback is business as usual for elite Muscovites, added major hassles for Russians from places like Siberia and the Far East
US response to Moscow ordering the size of its diplomatic staff in Russia be brought down to 455 is now known — and it is the pettiest thing you could imagine.
To get back at Putin the US State Department will force any Russian living outside Moscow who wants a diplomatic, business or tourist visa for the US to first travel to Moscow — a huge and expensive hassle in a country that spans 11 time zones.
The US maintains three consulates in Russia, in Saint Petersburg in the north, Yekaterinburg in the center, and Vladivostok in the north of the enormous country. However, from now on these consulates will only be issuing immigrant visas to the US:
The United States will suspend the procedure of issuing nonimmigrant visas in Russia as of August 23, in Moscow this procedure will be resumed on September 1, the US embassy has announced.
"As a result of the Russian government’s personnel cap imposed on the US Mission, all nonimmigrant visa (NIV) operations across Russia will be suspended beginning August 23, 2017.
Beginning September 1, nonimmigrant visa interviews will be conducted only at the US Embassy in Moscow," the statement said. "NIV interviews at the US Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok are suspended until further notice."
"As of 0900 Moscow time Monday, August 21, the US Mission will begin canceling current nonimmigrant visa appointments countrywide. The NIV applicants who have their interviews canceled should call the number below to reschedule their interview at the US Embassy in Moscow for a later date," the embassy stated.
Restrictions for issuing US nonimmigrant visas will remain as long as diplomatic mission personnel cuts are in effect, the embassy stressed.
The US will doubtlessly maintain that with staff reduced to 455 people it can not run four fully-operational visa centers, however with the same number of personnel Russia manages to run five in the US.
An upper middle class Russian from Vladivostok who has saved up enough money to visit San Francisco or Las Vegas will now first have to fly nine thousand kilometers in the opposite direction to Moscow — doubtlessly he'll opt to see Bangkok or Sydney instead.
But while Russian provincials who still want to travel to the US will have to deal with a major new hassle, things will stay pretty much the same for Muscovites. Except here is the thing, the people who had anything to do with the Russian decision to bring down the US diplomatic staff in Russia, or who have any in with Putin don't live in places like the Urals, Siberia, and the Far East in the first place. They live smack dab in the insanely expensive central Moscow, or Saint Petersburg as a distant second.
The much more sensible and painful revenge would be to close down visa operations in the capital and Peter—and force elite Muscovites to fly to Yekaterinburg. They'd absolutely hate that, I assure you.
Of course, that would also require a number of elite Americans of State Department to quit the global metropolis that is Moscow for life in the shadow of the Ural mountains.
In other words, State Depies are as usual too egoistical, too spoiled and too chickenshit to hit where it would really hurt.