(Question from Sputnik about my thoughts on Moscow’s reaction to the US visa slowdown.)
The cynic would say that, after the reduction, the US has too few staff to spare from plotting Putin’s overthrow to do normal diplomatic duties. Or maybe it’s some half-witted notion that, deprived of a chance to go to Disney World, the Russian population will rise up and overthrow Putin and let the US Navy into Sevastopol at last. It is however somewhat ironic, given the American confidence in the superiority of their own system, that they would want to make it harder for Russians to experience such a superior exemplar of freedom and democracy.
As to Russia’s retaliation, the diplomatic business is based on reciprocity or so, in my experience, is the Russian practice. So there will be some retaliation and one that will likely astonish Foggy Bottom
My belief is that Russia has realised that, as Putin told Stone, individuals may change but the US system does not. Given Washington’s support for opposition figures, its predilection for interference, its funding of GONGOs hostile to the Russian government, military actions in the neighbourhood, oft-stated declarations of enmity culminating in the latest sanctions, I would expect that Moscow is ready to follow Washington all the way down to zero representation if that’s where it goes. Moscow has less to lose than Washington.
One can always hope that a more sensible approach will win out but that hope is ebbing away as Trump makes more and more concessions to the War Party and his “why not make friends with Russia” thoughts are washing away.
If — one never wants to completely give up hope — the Russiangate nonsense is blown up thereby destroying the pretext for the original US actions, then maybe we can get back to something normal.
(But I would still advise Russia — as I would other countries — to insist on exact reciprocity of numbers and to expel all American GONGOs so as to reduce the capacity for mischief.)