NATO expels Russian diplomats to 'send message' about Skripal case
NATO expelled seven Russian diplomats and denied accreditations to three others over the Skripal case, saying a "constructive response" was sought from Russia. There has been no evidence that Moscow played a role in the attack.
The decision to cut the permanent size of the Russian mission from a maximum size of 30 to 20 people was a "clear message to Russia that there are costs and consequences for its unacceptable and dangerous pattern of behavior," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said following a meeting with NATO allies in Brussels. He went on to accuse Russia of having a "lack of constructive response" to the incident.
Led by the UK, a number of European countries and the US have accused Moscow of the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, earlier in March. No solid evidence has been presented, but this has not stopped some from severing diplomatic ties with Russia, which has denied playing any role and has offered its full support in the investigation.
The secretary-general stated that NATO's decision to expel and deny accreditation to Russian diplomats "does not change NATO's policy towards Russia." He said the alliance "remains committed to a dual-track approach of strong defense and openness to dialogue, including by working to prepare the next meeting of the NATO-Russia Council."
However, speaking to Sputnik following Stoltenberg's statement, a source within the Foreign Ministry said the step "very much narrows the possibilities for starting such a dialogue [between Moscow and the alliance] which is now urgently needed in the current difficult situation with security in Europe."
This is not the first time the NATO head has come out to the press with a barrage of tough words targeting Moscow, giving examples of Russia’s wrongdoings, but failing to provide evidence.
Stoltenberg's statement came just one day after the US, more than half of the EU's member states, other European countries, and Canada announced they would be expelling diplomats over the Skripal case. But as certain countries continue to point the finger at Russia, others are keeping a more level head, realizing that no evidence has been presented that proves Moscow was responsible.
Austria stated that it would not be expelling any Russian diplomats, with Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl saying on Tuesday that Vienna wants "to keep the channels of communication to Russia open."
Switzerland also stated on Tuesday that it would wait for the results of the investigation before taking any action. Slovakia also said it would not be taking any steps to expel diplomats currently, but that it was summoning the Russian ambassador "without delay," adding that the development of the situation would influence the country's next steps.
Moscow, for its part, has said it will not let the provocative acts against Russian diplomats go unanswered, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday. It accused the countries that expelled the diplomats of taking a "prejudiced, biased, and hypocritical stance" in the "absence of explanations of what happened and refusing to engage in substantive cooperation."
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