Russia is suspending its permanent mission to NATO in response to the alliance’s expulsion of eight Russians, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday.
Lavrov said the Kremlin’s move – which could come into effect as early as November 1 – was a result of “NATO’s actions.”
Russia is also suspending the activities of the NATO military liaison mission in Moscow, Lavrov said, with staff accreditation to be withdrawn on November 1.
The NATO information bureau in Moscow, which was established at the Belgian embassy to explain the role of NATO and NATO policies to the Russian public, will also be terminated, he said.
“NATO is not interested in any equal dialogue or in any joint work,” Lavrov said. “If so, then we do not see much need to continue to pretend that some change is possible in the foreseeable future. NATO has already in fact declared the impossibility of such changes.”
Earlier this month, NATO expelled eight members of the Russian mission to the alliance who they determined were “undeclared Russian intelligence officers,” according to a NATO official. The Kremlin’s moves on Monday come as the United States steps up its support to Russia’s neighbors, which a senior US defense official this weekend said were “on the frontlines of Russian aggression.”
At the time of the expulsion of the Russian officers, Moscow reacted by saying NATO’s actions were inconsistent with the alliance’s previous comments and undermined a chance for reconciliation.
“NATO leaders spoke about the importance of de-escalation in relations with Russia, called for resuming dialogue within the Russia-NATO Council, sending an ambassador to Brussels,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said earlier this month, according to Russian state media RIA Novosti. “If anyone believed in the sincerity of these statements, today there are none left.”
On Monday, NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said the alliance had “taken note” of Lavrov’s comments, but that NATO hadn’t received any official communication about the matter.
As Russia announced its retaliatory measures on Monday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was meeting Georgia’s prime minister and his counterpart in Tbilisi.
The two nations signed a new initiative to help Georgia “become more efficient and more effective and NATO interoperable,” the DOD said in a statement.
The program is an extension of the long-running Georgia Defense Readiness Program, “aimed to help Georgia defend its sovereign territory” after Russia invaded South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008. The two provinces make up 20 percent of Georgia’s landmass and are still occupied by Russia, according to the DOD.
Austin’s visit to Georgia is the first stop on a three-part tour “to reassure allies and partners of America’s commitment to their sovereignty in the face of Russian aggression,” according to a US Department of Defense statement.
Austin will also visit Ukraine and Romania before a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Previous spats between NATO countries and Russia have had wide-ranging global implications.
In 2018, in the wake of the poisoning of former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England, NATO trimmed the Russian mission to 20 from 30 positions. The UK attributed the attack to a unit of Russian military intelligence.
Days later, 20 nations, including the US, backed Britain by together expelling more than 100 Russian diplomats as part of a coordinated global response. Russia expelled 60 US diplomats and closed the US Consulate in St. Petersburg in retaliation.
And in 2014, NATO suspended “all practical civilian and military cooperation” with Russia after it annexed Crimea.
CNN’s Katharina Krebs and Stephanie Halasz contributed reporting.