Spies exposed in Brussels: NATO’s relationship with Russia "at the low point"

Secretary General Stoltenberg said NATO had to be “vigilant” after the transatlantic defense alliance discovered several Russian spies. He accuses the country of “malicious activities”. There is opposition from Moscow.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has accused Russia of “malicious activities” after suspected spies in the military alliance were exposed. “The relationship between NATO and Russia is at its lowest point since the Cold War,” said Stoltenberg in Brussels. The alliance must therefore “be vigilant” and act.

Stoltenberg justified NATO’s decision to withdraw accreditation from eight members of the Russian mission. They are “undercover Russian secret service employees” – that is, spies, a NATO representative said on Wednesday. As a consequence, Russia will in future only be allowed to accredit ten employees to NATO, half as many as before.

Stoltenberg said the measure was based on intelligence and was not related to a specific incident. In April, the Czech Republic had expelled 18 Russian diplomats in connection with allegations of espionage. The Russian military intelligence service GRU is also suspected of being behind hacker attacks on the German general election at the end of September.

No meeting of the NATO-Russia Council since the end of 2019

Russia criticized NATO’s actions against the representation. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in Moscow that there was “an obvious contradiction between the statements made by NATO officials calling for normalized relations with our country and their actions”.

Despite the espionage affair, Stoltenberg renewed his offer of dialogue to Russia. It is “important to talk” – especially when “tensions are as strong as they are at the moment,” emphasized the Secretary General. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected this move at a meeting on the sidelines of the UN general debate at the end of September. There has been no meeting of the NATO-Russia Council as a joint discussion forum since the end of 2019.

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NATO had already withdrawn accreditation from seven members of the Russian mission in 2018. The move came as a reaction to the poison attack on the Russian ex-double agent Sergei Skripal in Great Britain, for which the West blamed Russia.

Stoltenberg also commented on the Indo-Pacific alliance between the USA, Australia and Great Britain (Aukus), as a result of which a multi-billion submarine deal between France and Australia had collapsed. Aukus is “not directed against Europe or NATO,” said the Norwegian. “There is broad consensus that this issue should not cause a split in the transatlantic alliance.” He was “confident” that France and the US would settle their dispute.