On Monday, Russia announced it will suspend its mission to NATO and close the alliance’s office in Moscow in response to NATO expelling eight Russian diplomats from its headquarters in Brussels.
“Following certain measures taken by NATO, the basic conditions for common work no longer exist,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. “In response to NATO’s activities, we suspend the work of our permanent mission to NATO, including the work of the chief military representative, starting from November 1st.”
Lavrov said NATO’s office in Moscow would also be closed starting in November. He said if Russia and the alliance needed to communicate, it could be done through the Russian embassy in Belgium.
NATO accused the Russian diplomats it expelled of being spies or, as the alliance put it, “undeclared Russian intelligence officers.” When the expulsion was announced earlier this month, Russia denounced the move and said it hinders chances of Moscow normalizing relations with the US-led military alliance.
The diplomatic spat comes as tensions between Russia and NATO are rising over NATO’s increased military activity in the Black Sea and other sensitive areas.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said NATO-Russia relations are at their lowest point since the Cold War and blamed the tensions on Moscow. But since the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO has expanded from 16 members to 30, absorbing former Soviet states, including some that border Russia.