NATO pans Russian complaints after Lavrov shutters diplomatic offices

NATO pans Russian complaints after Lavrov shutters diplomatic offices
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has suspended his team’s diplomatic mission to NATO and closed the trans-Atlantic alliance’s two offices in Moscow in the latest dispute about diplomatic behavior and intelligence operations.

“We regret these steps,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said, referring to the suspension of the Russian mission and the closure of NATO’s military liaison and information offices in Moscow. “NATO’s policy towards Russia remains consistent. We have strengthened our deterrence and defense in response to Russia’s aggressive actions, while at the same time, we remain open to dialogue, including through the NATO-Russia Council.”

The contretemps flared after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg revoked the credentials of eight Russian attaches last week on the grounds that they are “undeclared Russian intelligence officers.”

"Lavrov declared that an “unfriendly” decision that unmasks NATO’s putative disinterest in "an equal dialogue or joint efforts to defuse military-political tension” between Moscow and Western capitals.

"Its policy towards Russia is becoming increasingly more aggressive,” Lavrov said. “The myth about the alleged ‘Russian threat’ is being promoted, in part, to strengthen the bloc’s internal affinity and to make it look important in the current geopolitical circumstances.”

US AND GEORGIAN LEADERS REAFFIRM MILITARY PARTNERSHIP AMID RUSSIAN THREAT

Moscow’s relationship with NATO powers cratered following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to deploy an invading force of unmarked Russian troops into Ukraine to annex Crimea and destabilize eastern Ukraine in 2014. That deceptive military operation resulted in Russia’s expulsion from the group of industrialized democracies and set the geopolitical table for the 2016 election interference.

“It only confirms that the Russians were never really serious in having a substantial debate with NATO,” Europeum Director Zdenek Beranek, who helped lead the Czech diplomatic mission in the United States prior to taking over at the Prague-based think tank, told the Washington Examiner. "At least from what I know as an outsider, the NATO-Russia committee meetings were mostly fruitless. They were used as a platform for the Russian diplomats to lecture their Western counterparts, so there was frustration on the NATO side that the official interaction didn't make sense."

The election interference effort featured a Russian intelligence officer, who doubled as a business associate of former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, who “may have been connected to the GRU's hack and leak operation targeting the 2016 U.S. election,” according to a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, and pitched Manafort on a “pro-Russia” plan for ending the Ukraine conflict. That crisis deepened distrust for Moscow in Ukraine and other neighboring states, spurring interest in closer ties with NATO even as Russian officials accused the Western bloc of trying to encroach on its borders.

Lavrov insisted that NATO’s restrictions on the Russian mission since 2014 have made it obsolete.

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"This corroborates the fact that NATO is not interested in an equal dialogue with us or any joint work,” he said. “If this is the case, we do not see much reason in continuing to pretend that things may change in the foreseeable future.”

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Tags: News, Foreign Policy, National Security, Russia, NATO, Sergey Lavrov, Ukraine, Czechia

Original Author: Joel Gehrke

Original Location: NATO pans Russian complaints after Lavrov shutters diplomatic offices

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