As expected, Moscow did not leave unanswered the recent decision of the alliance to cut in half the maximum number of employees of the Russian permanent mission to NATO. But the reaction turned out to be as tough as possible. First, the activities of the Alliance Military Mission in Moscow are being suspended. Secondly, his information bureau in the Russian capital will be closed. And thirdly, the work of the Russian permanent mission to NATO, which opened in Brussels back in 1998, is completely suspended. At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear that in the foreseeable future, changes for the better should not be expected, since “NATO is not interested in any equal dialogue or joint work.”
“The alliance line is becoming more and more aggressive”
“The size of our diplomatic mission in Brussels has already been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 – after the alliance’s decision on April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civil and military cooperation between Russia and NATO. The admission of our diplomats to the headquarters of the alliance and relations with its international secretariat were also limited as much as possible. Contacts on the military line are frozen, ”the Russian Foreign Ministry outlined the situation, announcing new measures in relation to the North Atlantic Alliance.
Moscow’s response became inevitable after NATO decided on October 6 this year to halve the number of employees of the Russian mission to the alliance: it announced the expulsion of eight people and the abolition of two more positions. Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg later explained: “We revoked the accreditation of eight members of the Russian mission to NATO, who were undeclared members of Russian intelligence. This decision is not related to any specific events, but we have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now. ” At the same time, he reiterated that “NATO continues to strive for a dialogue with Russia.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry then called the incident “an absurd trick” of the alliance, and the words of Mr. Stoltenberg – “the most real hypocrisy.”
“The aforementioned actions of NATO members confirm that they are not interested in an equal dialogue and joint work to de-escalate military-political tensions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday. “The alliance’s line towards our country is becoming more and more aggressive. The “Russian threat” is being inflated, among other things, in order to strengthen the internal unity of the alliance, to create the appearance of its “relevance” in modern geopolitical conditions. “
Three steps back
What steps it was decided to take was told at a press conference by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “In response to NATO’s actions, we suspend the work of our permanent mission to NATO, including the work of the chief military representative. Probably from November 1, or it will take a few more days, – he said, in particular. And he added: – If NATO has any urgent matters, they can turn to our ambassador in Belgium on these issues. An ambassador who ensures bilateral relations. ” “At the discretion of the alliance, one of the ambassadors of NATO member states in Moscow can perform similar functions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to NATO was opened in Brussels in 1998. At various times, it was led by, among others, Vitaly Churkin, Dmitry Rogozin and Alexander Grushko. In 2018, the latter became Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, and a new leader has not appeared. Only and remained in Brussels. O. Permanent Representative Yuri Gorlach, but in the summer he returned to Moscow. Earlier, one of the informed sources of Kommersant in Moscow noted: “If the alliance does not come to its senses, it may well come to the winding down of our permanent mission there.” And so in the end it happened.
The Russian Federation decided not to limit itself to the suspension of the work of its permanent mission. As noted by Kommersant’s sources, the changes will affect the Military Liaison Mission of the North Atlantic Alliance in Moscow. It was established in 2002 and operated under the auspices of the Belgian Embassy. The mission was called upon to facilitate the expansion of the dialogue between the Russian Federation and NATO by ensuring interaction between the Military Committee of the alliance in Brussels and the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. In particular, they discussed issues related to the programs of the Russia-NATO Council (RNC) and the work plans for military cooperation of the RNC. However, there was no de facto talk of any cooperation in recent years. And now, as Sergei Lavrov said, the activities of the Military Communications Mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its employees is revoked on November 1, 2021.
In addition, as the minister said, the activities of the NATO information office in Moscow, which was established at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium, are being terminated. The Information Bureau has been operating since February 2001. As stated on the alliance’s website, it “promotes understanding by the wider Russian public of relations between Russia and NATO and disseminates information in Russia about the role and functioning of NATO.” In particular, together with the NATO Public Diplomacy Department, the Information Bureau organized trips to the alliance headquarters for journalists, experts and students. В Twitter Information Office among the latest reports – information about the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, a video entitled “Why the exercise is so important for NATO”, information on the supply of medical equipment to Ukraine from the NATO Response Trust Fund to the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest message regarding Russia is dated October 8: Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg congratulated the Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Filipino Maria Ressa and Russian Dmitry Muratov, noting: “Your contribution to maintaining the professional ethics of a free and independent media is key to building sustainable democracies.” Since 2015, the bureau has been working without a local head (before that it was headed by Polish diplomat Robert Pszel).
“NATO is not interested in any equal dialogue, in any joint work,” Sergei Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance. that some changes are possible in the foreseeable future, because NATO has already declared the impossibility of such changes. “
“Well, in principle, the logical conclusion of a long period of relations,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, in his Telegram channel. NATO.- “B”) has not been for many years. All really serious issues should be resolved by the military in a working and operational manner. And this is important. And there is no need to imitate political interaction for a long time. So that’s right. “
“The suspension of the work of the Military Liaison Mission and Information Bureau in Russia, as well as the Russian permanent mission to NATO means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades,” Andrei Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, assured Kommersant. relations began to form back in the 90s, at one time opening channels for the parties to interact not only at the level of chiefs of the General Staff, but at the same time they continued to steadily deteriorate over the past years and became more and more problematic. “
According to the expert, “the initiative of the current gap comes from Brussels – a new NATO strategy is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the old partnership with Russia no longer fits into its concept.” “However, the intrigue was that, while going to break, it was important for Brussels to lay the blame and responsibility for it on Moscow, which allegedly turned out to be unprepared for partnership,” added Andrei Kortunov. “By expelling Russian diplomats, Brussels deliberately provoked Moscow to steps that would have made the previous interaction impossible and would have allowed General Secretary Stoltenberg to throw up his hands: they say, we were still ready for interaction, but Moscow turned out to be unprepared. ”
Meanwhile, the interlocutor of Kommersant summed up, “the fact that the Russian side ultimately played this game by taking reciprocal steps confirms that Moscow also considers its partnership with NATO exhausted.”
Vasily Kashin, Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, assured Kommersant that this is an “important symbolic step” on the part of Moscow: the last time of practical importance ”. According to the expert, Russia had and still has a communication channel between the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, and the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milli, and this channel has demonstrated its effectiveness against the background of the crises of recent years.
“The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War has become the main reason for the destruction of the entire complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today Russia pays special attention to marking the red lines associated with further steps of Ukraine’s integration into NATO. This was previously stated by the press secretary of Vladimir Putin Dmitry Peskov, warning that in response to the activity of the alliance in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow will take “active steps” to ensure its security. In such a situation, the preservation of representation under the alliance would dilute the Russian position and raise doubts about Moscow’s determination to defend these red lines, ”summed up Vasily Kashin.