Russia suspends its mission to NATO

Russia suspends its mission to NATO
Russia suspends its mission to NATO

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Russia announced on Monday the suspension of its mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the closure of the alliance’s offices in Moscow, at a time when relations with the Western military bloc deteriorated to new levels.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the steps in response to NATO’s expulsion of eight members of the Moscow mission to the alliance on charges of espionage.

“After NATO took certain measures, the basic conditions for joint action no longer exist,” Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

He added that Moscow will suspend the work of its official mission to NATO in Brussels, including its military representative, starting around the first of November.

Russia has also closed the alliance’s liaison mission at the Belgian Embassy in Moscow, which was set up in 2002, and the NATO Information Office, which was set up in 2001 to improve understanding between NATO and Russia.

“NATO has already significantly reduced its contacts with our mission,” Lavrov said, noting that the alliance “is not interested in dialogue and joint action.”

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the steps in response to NATO’s expulsion of eight members of the Moscow mission to the alliance on charges of espionage.

He added, “We see no reason to pretend any change may occur in the foreseeable future.”

Lavrov said that NATO can, in case of emergency, communicate through the Russian ambassador to Belgium.

Lavrov’s comments came after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the first leg of a tour that includes three allies on the Black Sea, Georgia, Ukraine and Romania, with the aim of delivering a message of support against Russia’s threats.

NATO defense ministers, including Austin, will hold a series of meetings in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

These steps interrupted years of efforts to improve relations between Moscow and NATO in the wake of the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia accuses NATO of provocative activity near its borders, and recently conducted major exercises.

The alliance says it is determined to bolster the security of member states close to Russia after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

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“malicious activities”

Earlier this month, NATO stripped eight members of the Moscow mission to the alliance of their accreditation, after Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s Secretary-General, described them as “undeclared Russian intelligence officers.”

“We have seen an increase in Russian malign activities, at least in Europe, and therefore we need to act,” Stoltenberg said, describing the relationship between NATO and Russia as “the lowest since the end of the Cold War.”

Russia has had an oversight mission in NATO, as part of the two-decade-old NATO-Russia Council, which aims to enhance cooperation in common security areas.

The size of the Russian mission was reduced before, when seven members of the mission were expelled after the 2018 poisoning of Novichok, a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in Britain.

The NATO-Russia Council meetings have not taken place since 2019 due to escalating tensions.

Russia’s relationship with the West has deteriorated since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its support for pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

Western countries have also imposed a series of sanctions in recent years on Ukraine, for alleged election interference, cyber attacks, and the poisoning of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.

Moscow, for its part, accused the West of interfering in its elections and supporting anti-Kremlin forces in countries such as Ukraine and Georgia, which Russia considers part of its traditional sphere of influence.

 
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