Foreign Minister Lavrov has announced that Moscow will suspend diplomatic relations – a low point in relation to the Western Defense Alliance.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced in Moscow on Monday that Russia would close its embassy to NATO on November 1st. The NATO military liaison office in Moscow would also have to cease work at this point, as would the NATO information office there.
“As a result of targeted steps on the part of NATO, we do not have adequate conditions for elementary diplomatic activities,” Lavrov said. That is why Moscow’s highest military representative will be withdrawn from Brussels. This means that there is no longer any direct military contact between Russia and the Western alliance.
Reaction to the expulsion of Russian diplomats
The decision marks a low point in relations between Russia and the Western Defense Alliance. The foreign minister presented this step as a reaction to the fact that NATO recently took over eight Russian diplomats Accreditation withdrawn would have. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg justified this at the beginning of October by saying that the members of the Russian mission were involved in undeclared secret service activities.
Your expulsion was not linked to a specific event, said Stoltenberg at the time, but a reaction to increased hostile activities by Russia. He left it open as to whether they were accused of specific espionage or whether their status as a secret service employee was not properly reported – in any case, their actions were not in line with their status as diplomats. A NATO spokesman said that the basis was the company’s own intelligence. As a matter of principle, one does not comment on their content.
NATO wants to intensify dialogue
The Kremlin had already announced countermeasures in response to the decision, which also included halving the size of the Russian representation from 20 to ten diplomats. The decision almost completely undermines prospects for normalization of relations between Russia and the Alliance, said Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin. The contradiction between statements by NATO representatives about the desire to normalize relations with Russia and the real actions are obvious. He described NATO as an “anti-Russian bloc”.
Lavrov made a similar statement. He accused NATO of being “neither interested in an equal dialogue nor in cooperation”. In urgent cases, the alliance could now turn to the Russian ambassador in Belgium. NATO had already been informed of the move.
Stoltenberg had emphasized that NATO would react decisively to Russia’s actions, but at the same time strive to intensify the dialogue. However, in the course of the UN General Assembly in New York, he did not succeed in negotiating with Lavrov a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council that had been offered for a long time. NATO announced that it had taken note of Lavrov’s statements to the media, but had not yet received any official communication.
“That makes everything even more difficult and things are already difficult.”
The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas regretted the decision on the sidelines of a meeting with EU counterparts in Luxembourg: “That makes everything even more difficult and things are already difficult,” he said. Germany has repeatedly advocated a dialogue with Russia in NATO, including in the NATO-Russia Council. The aim was to make it clear that “we are ready for dialogue”. Now we have to «once more take note of the fact that Russia apparently no longer is.» The Alliance’s defense ministers will meet for deliberations on Thursday and Friday in the Belgian capital.