Russia shuts diplomatic mission to NATO

Russia on Monday suspended its diplomatic mission to NATO and ordered the Western military alliance to shut its liaison office in Moscow, according to a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry. 

Russia said the move was retaliation for NATO’s decision earlier this month to revoke the accreditation of eight Russian diplomats who were accused of working under diplomatic cover as intelligence officers.

Diplomatic relations between NATO and Russia have been in precipitous decline for years, particularly since the 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea. The Kremlin never sent a replacement for its most recent ambassador to NATO, Alexander Grushko, who returned to Moscow to take up a post as deputy foreign minister in January 2018.

“Due to the absence, as a result of purposeful steps on the part of NATO, of appropriate conditions for the implementation of diplomatic activities, the work of the Permanent Mission of Russia to NATO is suspended, including the chief military representative,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in its statement.

The ministry said that Russia’s ambassador to Belgium, Alexander Tokovinin, had been authorized to act as an emergency contact, and that NATO could similarly designate an ambassador from one of its allied countries to serve in a similar capacity in Moscow.

In its statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused NATO of a pattern of unfriendly actions and of artificially heightening tensions with Moscow in order to bolster the internal unity of the alliance.

“They are not interested in an equal dialogue and joint work to de-escalate military-political tensions,” the ministry said of NATO allies. “The alliance’s line towards our country is becoming more and more aggressive. The ‘Russian threat’ is inflated, including in order to strengthen the internal unity of the alliance, to create the appearance of its ‘relevance’ in modern geopolitical conditions.”

In addition to suspending the operations of the NATO liaison office in Moscow, the ministry said that the credentials of all of the office’s employees were being revoked as of November 1.

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