Nato's relations with Russia at 'lowest point' since Cold War

But Jens Stoltenberg insists alliance favours dialogue with Moscow

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said dialogue with Russia was needed now more than ever. AFP
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Nato’s Secretary General has said the alliance favours dialogue with Russia despite tensions plummeting to their lowest level since the Cold War.

Russia closed its mission to Nato on Monday and will remove the accreditation of the alliance’s staff at its office in Moscow. Earlier this month, Nato expelled eight Russian diplomats after accusing them of being intelligence officers.

“The relationship between Nato and Russia is now at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War. For us, that's actually not an argument against dialogue,” said Jens Stoltenberg.

“That’s an argument in favour of dialogue because it is exactly when times are difficult – we have challenges and problems as we have now – that we need to sit down and talk.”

Nato-Russia relations have been strained since 2014 when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region. High-level contacts have remained, if sporadically, via the Nato-Russia Council.

Mr Stoltenberg said he regretted the current situation with Russia.

"We strongly believe that, especially when tensions are high and things are difficult, it's important to have dialogue," he said.

"Therefore, we will continue to work for dialogue with Russia.

“The offer to meet in the Nato-Russia Council is still on the table. It's for Russia to respond in a positive way. So far they've not done that.”

Mr Stoltenberg said the eight expelled Russians “were not diplomats, they were actually Russian intelligence operatives”. He compared the situation to a wider pattern of behaviour by Moscow in Europe in recent years, including the poisoning of former Russian-British double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.

“Nato’s policy remains consistent, and we remain open to dialogue, including through the Nato-Russia Council. At the same time, we will continue to assess how we can further strengthen our deterrence and defence," he said before a Nato summit this week.

“We will ensure we have the right plant, capabilities, and forces in place to protect our nations. We'll also review progress in our response to the challenge from Russia's nuclear capable missile systems."

Updated: October 20, 2021, 4:07 PM