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25 Oct, 2013 15:20

Snowden leaks allege NATO-member spied on Moscow, but Russia-US relations ‘intact’

Snowden leaks allege NATO-member spied on Moscow, but Russia-US relations ‘intact’

Reports that a NATO-member country has been spying on Russia will not affect contacts between Moscow and Washington, Russia FM Sergey Lavrov said. The statement follows the latest revelations from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“Contacts [between Moscow and Washington] never stop,” Lavrov told RIA Novosti news agency when asked if the latest publication of secret files leaked by the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor would affect relations between Russia and the US.

Lavrov made clear that the situation around Snowden is irrelevant for Russia.

"We have formulated our position on Snowden and have said everything,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (RIA Novosti/Andrey Stenin)

The statement from Russia’s Foreign Minister comes after the Washington Post revealed that Snowden took 30,000 documents, some of which contain sensitive information about a NATO-member country running a collection program to spy on Russia in order to provide valuable intelligence for the US Air Force and Navy.

“If the Russians knew about it, it wouldn’t be hard for them to take appropriate measures to put a stop to it,” the newspaper cited one US official as saying on condition of anonymity.

Such collection programs were also allegedly run against Iran and China.

According to the source, Edward Snowden stole the documents from a top-secret network run by the Defense Intelligence Agency and used by intelligence arms of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.

Former NSA-contractor and CIA employee gained access to the documents through the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, or JWICS, for top-secret/sensitive compartmented information, the sources told the newspaper.

Obama Administration officials have started alerting some foreign intelligence services that documents obtained by Snowden may disclose details of their secret cooperation with the US.

As intelligence agencies were provided with an account of the documents the NSA believes Snowden obtained, officials say there is no particular pattern to the military intelligence documents taken.

Officials now fear that any disclosures of this kind could threaten intelligence cooperation with its allies in the future.

“Not only does it mean we have the potential of losing collection, but also of harming relationships,” a congressional aide told the Post.

The US depends “to a very great extent on intelligence-sharing relationships with foreign partners, mostly governments — or, in some cases, organizations within governments,” an official said.  

“If they tell us something, we will keep it secret. We expect the same of them,” he continued.  

But should the secret be disclosed, “these countries, at a minimum, will be thinking twice if they’re going to share something with us or not”, he added.

Meanwhile, recently disclosed documents revealed that the US intercepted the phone conversations of 35 world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Thursday the Guardian wrote that that a classified memo provided to them by Snowden suggests that the NSA encouraged officials within the United States government and intelligence community to share among their colleagues contact information pertaining to international heads of state.

The revelations have proven diplomatically contentious for the United States. EU leaders say their relations with the US have been undermined by reports of NSA spying on European leaders and ordinary citizens.

A partnership with America should be built on respect and trust, they said in a joint statement.

"[The leaders] stressed that intelligence gathering is a vital element in the fight against terrorism,” the BBC cites the statement as reading. “A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field of intelligence gathering."

The European Parliament recently voted for the suspension of US access to the global financial database held by a Belgian company because of concerns that the US is snooping on the database for financial gain rather than just to combat terrorism.