This is a new illustration of the strong tensions which have opposed Russia and the West for several years between sanctions, cross-expulsions of diplomats, accusations of electoral interference, espionage and cyberattacks attributed to Moscow.
Russia announced Monday, October 18, to suspend its mission of representation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and that of NATO in Moscow. This decision follows the withdrawal, at the beginning of October by the Alliance, of the accreditations of eight Russian emissaries, accused of espionage.
Russia, for its part, criticizes the Atlantic Alliance for its ambition to extend to its borders by integrating within it Ukraine and Georgia, former Soviet republics which it considers to be still part of its sphere of affecting. “Following certain measures taken by NATO, the basic conditions for working together are no longer there”Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday, specifying that a priori these decisions would take effect on 1er November.
In detail, Russia will indefinitely suspend its mission in Brussels with the Western military alliance, as well as the NATO mission hosted by the Belgian embassy in Moscow. The latter’s role is to liaise between the Atlantic Alliance in Brussels and the Russian Defense Ministry.
Mr. Lavrov also announced “Terminate the activity of the NATO information office”. The latter is defined by the Alliance as having the mission of“Improve mutual knowledge and understanding”.
Since 2014 and the annexation of Crimea by Russia, “NATO has already greatly reduced contact with our mission. On the military side, there has been no contact since then ”, justified the head of Russian diplomacy.
He assured that NATO was not “Not interested in a dialogue and a work of equal to equal”. “We do not see the need to pretend that any change is possible in the foreseeable future”, he said. For its part, NATO has indicated that it has “Took note of Minister Lavrov’s comments to the media”. “We had no official communication on the subject he had mentioned”, said Atlantic Alliance spokesperson Oana Lungescu.
In case of’“Emergency”, the Alliance will be able to contact the Russian ambassador to Belgium in the future, Lavrov said. These announcements come after umpteenth accusations of espionage. At the beginning of October, NATO announced that it was withdrawing their accreditation from eight members of the Russian mission in Brussels, accused of being “Undeclared Russian intelligence agents”. And Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the process accused Moscow of“Malicious activities” growing in Europe. Russia had taken note by considering that NATO, founded in 1949 by adversaries of the Soviet Union, had demonstrated its refusal to normalize relations.
The Skripal case in the background
NATO had already decided in March 2018 to withdraw their accreditations from seven members of the Russian mission and to have them expelled from Belgium following the poisoning in the United Kingdom of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent, and of his daughter Yulia.
The number of accreditations for the Russian mission in Brussels had then been reduced from 30 to 20. On October 7, 2021, this number had been further reduced and reduced to 10.
Despite the strong tensions, the Russian military high command has met on several occasions since 2014 in third countries with military leaders from NATO or the Pentagon.
In February 2020, the Russian Chief of Staff Valéri Guerassimov spoke in Azerbaijan with the Supreme Commander of NATO in Europe, American General Tod Wolters. In September 2021, Guerassimov met his American counterpart, Mark Milley, in Helsinki, Finland, after a previous interview in December 2019.