Speaking with Americans in Their Language

This week the time, specified by the Russian Foreign Ministry, has come when the staff of the US Embassy in Moscow left the dacha in Serebryanyy Bor and the warehouse on Dorozhnaya Street. They were forbidden to use these objects after the Senate voted for new anti-Russian sanctions. Of course, it was taken into account that for 6 months the US never returned the Russian diplomatic property illegally arrested on its territory.

By September Washington has to reduce the staff of its diplomatic missions by 755 people so that there are as many employees as Russia has in the USA. The State Department intimidates Russia with the fact that it will take Russians much time to get American visas, as if they were forced to cut consular services.

And then a confession on CNN followed: the reduction of the US embassy staff would greatly complicate the espionage in Russia. Actually, the Americans were leaving the Moscow dacha as if they didn't want to leave any trace of their stay. But Anton Lyadov followed these traces. We're the only film crew that managed to get on the very territory of the former American dacha. Look, there are still beer cans on the ground.

By the way, the beer is Russian. What remains on the territory after Americans is trees, benches and a tractor. They took everything, up to the last chair. They even dismantled the children's playground. Whether it was the embassy staff who left the garbage or someone threw it, does not matter.

Since August 1 this territory has nothing to do with the American embassy. This is how this place looked like from inside. Cozy rooms with log walls, a fireplace, huge sofas with cushions, which are, by the way, loaded in the first place. They sat on Grey ones, red ones were put under their backs. Americans came here even in winter. In the autumn they loved to play American football. On holidays the Cossack choir and the Russian folk orchestra with balalaikas and accordions were invited to perform here, They played on the veranda.

Now tables, at which they used to drink at parties, are taken out from it. Americans loved this place so much that when there were not enough beds, they used to tents right on the lawn. People came, had fun, there were children. In the barbecue area, there are no more braziers or frying grills. The last bag of coal was packed too. The man in the T-shirt with the inscription "Hollywood" commands the move. At the exit the employee tries to close the gate, fumbling with the lock. A woman, obviously our compatriot, rushes to the rescue. Wait, wait, I'll lock it.

Formally on the day of departure, August 1, the US embassy could no longer use the dacha, but the Russian side did not even object. Besides, the US side tried to create a scandal out of the blue, saying that the diplomats' cars were not allowed to the dacha from July 30. The Russian Foreign Ministry sorted it out.


Americans simply didn't bother to extend the passes to Serebryanyy Bor. This is a restricted nature protection zone. After the turmoil, when the Russian Foreign Ministry offered to hand out passes on the spot, the embassy employees drove away. Despite this, the demand of Russia to leave the dacha and a warehouse on Dorozhnaya Street was fulfilled on time. This is so far only the response to Obama's Russophobic attacks late last year. Look: this decision had been taken before Trump signed the new sanction law. We did not start this confrontation, this aggravation. There is a notion of goodwill gesture.

Especially over the past 20 years, Russia has always exercised the notion of goodwill gesture in its relations with the USA. Americans understand a different language. The number of diplomatic and technical personnel will now be brought into exact correspondence with the number of Russian diplomats and technical workers in the US. It's a symmetrical response to the decision of the American side to expel Russian diplomats in December 2016, which was aggravated when the US Congress adopted new anti-Russian sanctions. They have moved to a completely new level, they have already dragged their allies in Europe into these sanctions. I do not remember such outright hostility, which affects the relations, of course. I haven't experienced it. They have about a month to equalize the diplomatic staff.

To see the difference, when Washington expelled our diplomats from the US, they were given 72 hours. They were packing up under the control of the American special services. What the Americans have done with the dachas can hardly be expressed in correct words. Because this is not only political arrogance, but also a violation of international law.

Response measures are just a manifestation of the principle of parity, the one on which the relations between Moscow and Washington have rested since Soviet times. Journalist and chronicler Mikhail Taratuta, who worked in the US back in the 80s and 90s, felt the principle of mirroring on his own.

The fuss with visas lasted for about a year, I guess, until our dying Soviet authorities, tormented, dared to give a visa to the correspondent of "Voice of America" and open the corps of "Voice of America" in Russia. Only after this Americans allowed me to come. I spent 3 months in a hotel, I wasn't allowed to rent an apartment only because some diplomat or journalist wasn't allowed to rent a place in Leningrad. Washington tried to blackmail Russia with visas now, too. This is what ex-ambassador McFaul posted in a social network. If these cuts are real, Russians should expect to wait weeks if not months to get visas to come to US.

McFaul is no more in civil service, commented the US embassy spokesperson. It's his stance, but the speed of consular services may slow down. I see no direct correlation between economic side of sanctions and visas. You know, it doesn't sound convincing to me. I saw statistics. I guess, last year they issued about 160 000 visas. Our media say that the European embassies working with far fewer diplomats issue 2 or 3 times more visas.

Mariya Zakharova, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, wonders what hundreds of American employees really do in foreign missions. Calling this question indecent for a diplomat, she explained that the whole situation has long ago gone beyond courtesy. Equalizing the diplomatic corpses must be completed by September.