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Are Parking Spaces the Next Casualty of the U.S.-Russian Diplomatic Spat?

Russia has 11 spots in D.C. Where they are, nobody knows, but perhaps they could soon go.

The Russian general consulate in San Francisco in Dec. 2016. / JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images
The Russian general consulate in San Francisco in Dec. 2016. / JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

As the U.S.-Russia diplomatic dispute over embassy staff and buildings heats up, it’s likely the tit-for-tat retaliations could continue. What’s at stake are personnel, properties, and parking.

This week, U.S. officials entered residential areas of the Russian consulate in San Francisco. Russian diplomats had locked those areas as they left the property last month under U.S. orders.

“Despite our warnings, the U.S. authorities did not listen to reason and did not give up their illegal intentions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We reserve the right to respond. The principle of reciprocity has always been and remains the cornerstone of diplomacy.”

As the U.S.-Russia diplomatic dispute over embassy staff and buildings heats up, it’s likely the tit-for-tat retaliations could continue. What’s at stake are personnel, properties, and parking.

This week, U.S. officials entered residential areas of the Russian consulate in San Francisco. Russian diplomats had locked those areas as they left the property last month under U.S. orders.

“Despite our warnings, the U.S. authorities did not listen to reason and did not give up their illegal intentions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We reserve the right to respond. The principle of reciprocity has always been and remains the cornerstone of diplomacy.”

For those just tuning in: The State Department ordered Russia to leave its consulate general in San Francisco in August. That was a retaliatory move made after Russia ordered the United States to dramatically decrease diplomatic and technical staff and shutter two compounds in July. But that, too, was a response — last December, the United States seized two Russian compounds and expelled 35 diplomats.

On Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that Russian staff had in fact been given extra time to pack up and go, and that U.S. diplomatic security were just making sure people were no longer living there. The Russian Embassy appeared to disagree, devoting a section of its Tuesday newsletter to the issue under the title, “US completely and unlawfully seize Russian Consulate General in SF.”

Russia’s latest rebuttal came in mid-September, when Russia reduced parking spaces for U.S. officials in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. Could they move next to parking spaces in Moscow?

But if Russia retaliated on the streets, the United States could do the same.

After several months of inquiry, the District Department of Transportation told Foreign Policy how many parking spaces Russian officials have in Washington, D.C.

“There are currently 11 dedicated Russian diplomatic parking spots in the District,” a spokesperson said, declining to specify where the spaces were located.

It’s unclear how many parking spaces American diplomats have in Moscow. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow told FP that it does not discuss embassy logistics with press, and directed FP to the State Department.

The State Department declined to provide comment on the number of parking spaces it has in the famously traffic-congested Russian capital.

But perhaps there’s no need to worry, at least for now.

“We are not currently engaged in conversations about parking spaces,” the U.S. State Department spokesperson said.

Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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