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NATO blames Russia for breakdown in relations as Moscow says expulsion of its diplomats has made tensions worse than in Cold War

NATO blames Russia for breakdown in relations as Moscow says expulsion of its diplomats has made tensions worse than in Cold War
A breakdown in relations between NATO and Russia is the fault of the Kremlin, a leading official from the US-led bloc has said, after Moscow withdrew its mission to the organization and closed down its offices in the capital.

On Wednesday, NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, blamed the recent rising tensions on Moscow, despite the bloc expelling Russia’s diplomatic representatives at the start of a tit-for-tat standoff. According to him, the state of ties has reached new lows as a result of the Kremlin’s decision to retaliate.

“The relationship between NATO and Russia is now at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War,” he said. However, Stoltenberg insisted that, despite having expelled around half of Russia’s diplomatic mission in NATO’s headquarters in Brussels just weeks ago, the bloc is still receptive to negotiations.

“For us, this is not really an argument against a dialogue,” he explained. “The proposal to convene a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council remains relevant. And now it depends on Russia whether it will react in a positive way.”

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed that Moscow would entirely suspend the operations of its mission to NATO and also announced that the bloc’s information bureau in the Russian capital would be shut down. Now, if its officials want to talk to Moscow, they must go through its representatives in Belgium.

Earlier this month, NATO officials decided to slash the size of the permanent Russian delegation to the bloc, revoking the credentials of eight envoys, in response to what it called “suspected malign Russian activities.”

Responding to Stoltenberg’s comments, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said that the remarks are “worthless” and argued that relations were actually now “in a state worse than at any point during the darkest days of the Cold War.”

“Yes, we heard the statement by Mr. Stoltenberg about his alleged readiness to discuss security issues with Russia. Well, what can I say? There is nothing behind these statements in practical terms,” she responded.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reacted on Monday to Moscow’s decision to withdraw its mission, saying that “it makes things more difficult, and they were already difficult… Russia no longer seems to be willing to talk.”

“The decision taken by Moscow is more than regrettable,” and “it will seriously damage the relationship,” Maas continued.

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