Moscow hit back at NATO’s decision to expel eight members of Russia’s mission to the military alliance. NATO announced the move Wednesday, accusing the officials of being spies or, as the alliance put it, “undeclared Russian intelligence officers.”
On Thursday, Moscow said the move undermines hopes for the US-led military alliance normalizing relations with Russia. “There is an obvious inconsistency in statements by NATO representatives about their desire to normalize relations with our country and in their actual actions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
NATO also reduced by half the number of officials Russia could have at its NATO mission, bringing it down to 10. “These actions allow us not to develop illusions about the normalization of relations. In fact, these prospects are almost completely undermined,” Peskov added.
Also on Thursday, NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg slammed Russia for so-called “malign activity” and said the expulsion was not over any particular event. “This decision is not linked to any particular event, but we have seen over some time now an increase in Russian malign activity, and therefore we need to be vigilant,” he said.
Stoltenberg said the relationship between Russia and NATO is at its lowest point since the end of the Cold War. The NATO chief blamed the low state of relations on Moscow. But since the Cold War ended, NATO has grown from 16 member states to 30, adding countries that border Russia. Now, NATO regularly holds military exercises near Russia’s border and in the Black Sea.