NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that the expulsion of eight members of the Russian mission into the coalition was not the result of a single specific incident, but due to “an increase in lethal activity for some time”.
NATO officials confirmed on Wednesday they were expelling eight Russian diplomats and planned to reduce the size of Russia’s observer mission in the Western Alliance from 20 to 10. The move is in response to alleged Russian espionage activities in Europe, which have reportedly included murders, attempted murders and explosions.
Speaking to reporters after Thursday’s meeting of NATO national security advisers at the coalition headquarters in Brussels, Stoltenberg said he needed to be vigilant and take action when members of the Russian delegation to NATO “conduct activities that are not in conformity with their recognition and hence, the recognition has been withdrawn.”
Relations between NATO and Russia have been strained since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its provocation and continued involvement in separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Stoltenberg acknowledged that relations between NATO and Russia are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, and blamed it on Russia’s behavior.
“We have not at least seen their aggressive actions against Ukraine, but also significant military build-up,” he said.
Although Russia is not a member of the US-led coalition, there is an observer mission to NATO as part of the two-decade-old NATO-Russia Council, the main forum for dialogue between the coalition and Moscow. The forum has been mostly inactive since 2014.
Stoltenberg said that NATO has for some time invited Russia to participate in the negotiations of the new NATO-Russia Council, which are usually convened to promote cooperation between the alliance and the nation, but Russia has rejected it. is not accepted.
But Stoltenberg said NATO is “ready to sit down, because we believe it’s always important to sit down to talk.”
Some information for this report has been obtained from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Press.