Russia suspends its mission at NATO after expulsion of diplomats
MOSCOW: In a tit-for-tat move, Russia has suspended its mission at NATO and ordered the closure of the alliance’s office in Moscow after the expulsion of Russian diplomats.
Earlier this month, NATO withdrew the accreditation of eight Russian officials to its Brussels headquarters, saying it believes they have been secretly working as Russian intelligence officers. NATO also halved the size of Moscow’s team at its headquarters from 20 to 10.
Moscow has dismissed the accusations as baseless. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov delivered Moscow’s response Monday, announcing the suspension of Russia’s mission at NATO and the closure of the alliance’s military liaison and information offices in the Russian capital.
He charged that the alliance’s action has confirmed that “NATO isn’t interested in any kind of equal dialogue or joint work,” adding that “we don’t see any need to keep pretending that there could be any shift in the foreseeable future.”
Lavrov added that contacts between the Western military alliance and Russia could be maintained through the Russian Embassy in Belgium.
“As a result of NATO’s deliberate moves, we have practically no conditions for elementary diplomatic work and in response to NATO’s actions we suspend the work of our permanent mission to NATO, including the work of the chief military envoy, probably from Nov. 1. Or it may take several more days,” Lavrov said.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a separate statement that NATO’s actions “confirm that they are not interested in an equal dialogue and joint work to deescalate military-political tensions.”
NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said the alliance has taken note of Lavrov’s statement, but added it hasn’t yet received an official notice from Moscow.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Luxembourg that “this decision taken in Moscow will further prolong the difficult situation we’re in, this frosty period that’s been going on for some time,” adding that “this will put a further serious strain on relations.”