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US President Donald Trump has promised to respond for the decision of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to reduce the staff of American diplomatic institutions in Russia before September 1. Since August 23, the United States has postponed indefinitely the issuance of non-immigrant visas to Russians in US consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok. Now in order to get American visa, Russian citizens from different regions will have to go to US Embassy in Moscow for an interview. Priority in issuing visas will be given to civil servants, employees of international governmental organizations with offices in the United States, such as the United Nations, and diplomats from other countries who need to pay a visit to America after a working trip to Russia. Since September 1, US authorities have closed the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in San Francisco. Recall that in July, Russian authorities ordered to reduce the number of employees of US diplomatic institutions from 1,210 to 455 people in response to the bill on new anti-Russian sanctions; the document was approved by Congress and signed by the president.
The United States want the Russian authorities to understand that attempts to make US diplomats an object of counter-sanctions will only damage Russian citizens. These actions will not affect the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions until Russia stops aggression in Donbas and returns annexed Crimea to Ukraine. Russian mass media understate the negative consequences for the Russians, trying to smooth the situation. "Vedomosti," referring to the executive director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia Maya Lomidze, writes that there are almost no urgent individual tours to the United States, and "those who plan to go to the US in the nearest future, have their visas, and the rest will have time to obtain them." Lenta.ru recommends Russian citizens to get American visas in other countries, which have American embassies and consulates, and the time for consideration of applications is less than in Moscow. The article names Kazakhstan, Egypt, China, Georgia, and even Ukraine. Undoubtedly, fewer Russian citizens go to rest in the US than to Turkey. In 2016, 109.7 thousand Russians visited the US as a tourist destination. For comparison: since early 2017, 2 million Russian citizens have visited Turkish Antalya.
However, tourism is not the only purpose of visiting the US. There are about 20 different categories of nonimmigrant visas that allow you to stay in the US for a certain period of time: business, treatment, employment or training purposes. If Russian citizen wants to get a visa for business or tourist trips to the US, he needs to wait 85 days for an interview. In 2016, 8.3 thousand Russians have visited the US with a business purpose. These are representatives of a wealthy strata of Russian society: shareholders who have capital investments on the territory of the United States, employees of representative offices and branches of American firms in Russia, companies working on the American market and services. During their business trips, which last from several days to 2 weeks, they resolve key business questions, on which the fate of workers of individual Russian enterprises depends. In Russia, there are 150 American companies. They are employers for Russian citizens. The American company PepsiCo is the largest producer of drinks and food products in the Russian market, it has its own factories for bottling beverages and producing chips. ExxonMobil, Ford Motor Co., General Electric have created joint ventures in the automotive, heavy engineering and energy industries with Russian companies. In Russia, there are distribution networks of large American companies Philip Morris and Avon Products. Visa and MasterCard companies provide 90% of bank payments in the Russian Federation.
It is difficult to predict business trips. An employee of a large export-import company cannot foresee when exactly he needs to go to the US or another foreign country in case of a motivating deal. This can happen at any time and therefore slow issuing US visas does not meet the interests of Russian business.
In 2016, 113.4 thousand Russians flew to the United States with private purposes. Some Russians go to the United States for temporary work. Since 1994, 100 thousand Russians took part in Work and Travel program, which provides opportunities of summer work in the US for students. Truckers, seasonal workers, health workers, and household workers travel to the United States to work. A separate category of visa recipients is Russian students who study in American universities. According to the report of Open Doors, in the 2013-14 academic year, 5.5 thousand Russians entered US universities. This is 13% more than in the last 5 years. For Russian students, the United States is the second most popular country after Germany to receive Western higher education.
Since the fall of the "Iron Curtain," Russians of different generations have visited the United States. About 2.9 million Russian migrants are permanently residing in America; they have relatives in Russia, with some of them they are in touch. According to Vedomosti, due to the suspension of issuing visas at US consulates in the US Embassy in Moscow, there will be a big queue for obtaining visas. Russians will have to apply for three to four months before the planned trip. According to the press secretary of the Russian Union of Travel Industry Irina Tyurina, some Russians from remote regions, including the Far East, will have to refuse to travel to the US, since the additional costs of traveling to Moscow for interviews at the American Embassy will be too high.
There are also immigrant visas, which are issued to Russians who want to immediately leave for permanent residence in the United States. This alternative can be used only by those Russians who have relatives among US citizens or employers who are ready to vouch for them. To obtain such a visa, a relative or employer must file a petition with the US Migration Service before the Russian applies to the US embassy or consulate. Currently, there are about 4.5 million applicants for an immigrant visa worldwide.
Russians who suffered from the consequences of the financial and economic crisis, anti-Russian sanctions and those disappointed in the ability of the ruling elite to solve pressing problems usually leave the country. Broken Russian entrepreneurs and skilled professionals who do not see their life in Russia are leave to seek a better life in America under various pretexts. Some new migrants from Russia are proud to talk about their successes in a new place in the video blogs on YouTube. The confirmation of this trend is the story of Ruslan Kushniyarov, the former engineer of Gazpromenergoholding. In March 2016, together with his family he moved from Moscow to San Jose, California. Kushniyarov’s family suffered from the consequences of the financial and economic crisis in Russia. Ruslan took a mortgage to buy an apartment in the Moscow region of Shchyolkovo for $ 115 thousand in 2008. Because of the depreciation of the ruble in early 2010, Ruslan had to pay 86 thousand rubles instead of 28 thousand monthly. The bank refused to transfer the loan from dollars in rubles. Ruslan wrote letters about assistance to the State Duma and President Vladimir Putin, participated in rallies and protest actions of foreign currency borrowers, but nobody heard him. He was fired from his work. As a result, Ruslan sold his apartment for $ 35,000 and left with his family in the United States for a short-term visa and asked for political asylum. During the year of his life in the States, Ruslan has opened his own company and is engaged in the repair of household appliances. He earns 17-20 thousand dollars monthly, rents a two-room apartment and has bought a minibus for his business.
Washington has created second "Iron Curtain" and complicated the process of obtaining visas for Russians for the "critical mass" of those dissatisfied with the socio-economic situation and the ruling regime remain in Russia. These people might form the basis of the opposition movement; they might demand to implement economic and political reforms, to stop the aggression in Ukraine in order to get rid of the sanctions and bring Russia out of the crisis. The aim of the current anti-Russian sanctions is to increase dissatisfaction with the existing socio-economic situation of Russia; the society should begin to exert pressure on the authorities. The main thing is that people, who are able to protest and lead their comrades in misfortune, do not leave Russia. Otherwise, anti-Russian sanctions will not have any effect.
The new "Iron Curtain" against Russia fits into Trump’s program of "Make America great again." The American president wants to primarily provide jobs to American citizens and reduce the flow of migrants to the United States from the third countries. During the first 100 days of his presidency, Donald Trump called on various ministries to facilitate the issuance of visas to the most gifted and highly qualified foreigners. Russian tourists and children of Russian politicians and oligarchs, who go to sunbathe on the beaches of Miami and play in a casino in Las Vegas, do not fit into this category. The US does not need random people on its land. Republican administration allows the Kremlin to understand this.