Russia announced on Monday (18) the suspension of its diplomatic mission in NATO, after the military alliance expelled eight Russian representatives, accused of espionage.
“NATO is not interested in equitable dialogue and joint work,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, noting that the measures will take effect on 1 November. “If that’s the case, then we don’t see the need to continue pretending that changes in the near future are possible.”
Concretely, Russia will indefinitely suspend both its mission in Brussels and the NATO mission at the Belgian embassy in Moscow.
According to Lavrov, if the members of the alliance have to resolve any urgent matter, they can get in touch with the country’s ambassador in Belgium.
NATO said it “has learned of Minister Lavrov’s statements from the press.” “We have no official communication on the matter,” said Alliance spokeswoman Oana Lungescu.
On Oct. 6, NATO suspended the accreditation of eight members of the Russian mission, claiming they were “undeclared intelligence agents.”
The dispute is the latest episode in the already strained relations between Moscow and the Western powers. Russia accuses NATO of lusting after territories near its borders, such as Ukraine and Georgia, two former Soviet republics that Moscow still considers part of its sphere of influence.
The alliance, in turn, says it is determined to bolster the security of member countries close to Russia after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
In early October, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg accused Moscow of increasing its “malicious activities” in Europe.
Russia responded by saying that the political-military alliance, founded in 1949 by rivals from the Soviet Union, has demonstrated its refusal to normalize relations with the country.
In March 2018, the military alliance had already decided to withdraw the credentials of seven members of the Russian mission and expel them from Belgium, following the poisoning of Serguei Skripal, a former Russian agent, and his daughter in the UK.
Subsequently, the number of accreditations for the Russian mission in Brussels was reduced from 30 to 20. On October 7, 2021, even more, until there were 10.
Despite strong tensions, since 2014 the Russian military high command has met several times in third countries with military leaders from NATO and the Pentagon.
In February 2020, Russian Chief of Staff Valeri Guerasimov met in Azerbaijan with NATO’s Supreme Commander for Europe, US General Tod Wolters.
In September 2021, Guerasimov had a meeting in Helsinki with his American counterpart Mark Milley, after an earlier conversation in December 2019.