NATO relations with Russia at “low point”

Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jens Stoltenberg, on Thursday (21/10) said relations between the alliance and Russia were at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

Stoltenberg made this statement as the defense ministers of the nations belonging to the alliance began a two-day meeting in Brussels, Belgium.

Tensions have run high between Russia and NATO in recent weeks when Russia announced Monday that it was suspending its permanent mission to NATO in response to the alliance’s expulsion of eight Russian citizens in early October. NATO accused the Russian citizen of spying. The Kremlin itself has denied the allegations.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Stoltenberg said he regretted Russia’s decision to close NATO’s Moscow office. He added that they still had several lines of communication with Russia, but the closure of the office made communication more difficult.

However, the NATO secretary general said this difficult situation raised awareness of the growing importance of communication between the two sides. NATO, according to him, will continue to strive for a constructive dialogue with Russia.

Stoltenberg also said NATO is undergoing a transformation process, in which member states are refocusing their collective defenses “to protect their own territory.” Defense ministers will agree on a new master plan to defend against potential Russian attacks on multiple fronts.

NATO also discussed the issue of Afghanistan and the takeover of the Taliban at the meeting in Brussels.

“The lessons learned from the process are not only what didn’t work, but also what worked” during the alliance’s involvement in Afghanistan, he added.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday (20/10), the NATO secretary general said “NATO’s most urgent role right now and the most pressing task we face is to resettle Afghans who worked for us.”

Stoltenberg said NATO allies and partners managed to get more than 120,000 people out of Afghanistan and would continue to work to evacuate many more. [em/lt]

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