President Donald Trump’s administration has made the shocking decision to close the doors of its last two remaining consulates in Russia.
According to the New York Post, the move, first announced by the State Department last week, leaves the U.S. embassy in Moscow as America’s “only diplomatic outpost” in Russia.
Closing the consulates
The Post reported Saturday that the move was made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cases of the disease have been spiking in Russia in recent weeks, according to reports.
The State Department also said the closure of the consulates will “optimize the work of the U.S. mission in Russia,” according to NPR, and that the move is part of “ongoing efforts to ensure the safe and secure operation of the U.S. diplomatic mission in the Russian Federation.”
Still, those assurances didn’t calm speculation that the move may have something to do with a recent cyberattack that saw multiple agencies within the federal government get hacked.
According to NBC News, Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that it was “pretty clearly” Russia behind the attack.
“I can’t say much more as we’re still unpacking precisely what it is, and I’m sure some of it will remain classified,” he told conservative radio host Mark Levin. “This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.”
The motives behind the cyberattack are not yet clear, but it’s beginning to look more and more like another episode in the ongoing geopolitical battle between the United States and Russia.
In that vein, lawmakers including Republican Sen. Mitt Romney (UT) have urged the White House to respond aggressively to the reported hacking.
“I think the White House needs to say something aggressive about what happened,” Romney said this week, according to The Hill.
“This is almost as if you had a Russian bomber flying undetected over the country, including over the nation’s capital, and not to respond in a setting like that is really stunning,” he added.
Pressed Friday on whether Trump would release a statement, Secretary Pompeo told Levin that sometimes the “wiser course of action to protect the American people is to calmly go about your business and defend freedom,” NBC News reported.