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NATO offers talks with Russia amid escalating tensions

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on October 20, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

NATO has proposed talks with Russia in the wake of a move by Moscow to suspend its diplomatic mission to the US-led military alliance, which came in response to the expulsion of Russian diplomats over espionage allegations.

NATO recently expelled eight diplomats from Russia’s representation to the alliance. Russia denied the spying allegations as groundless and cut almost all remaining relations with NATO by closing the alliance’s mission and information office in Moscow.

On Wednesday, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, said he regretted the Kremlin’s move, “which does not promote dialogue and mutual understanding.”

“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.”

“We strongly believe that, especially when tensions are high and things are difficult, it is important to have dialogue,” the NATO chief said. Stoltenberg added that NATO will continue to assess “how we can further strengthen our deterrence and defense.”

Russia, which is not a NATO member, has long had an observer mission to the alliance as part of a two-decade-old NATO-Russia Council meant to promote cooperation in common security areas. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, said on Monday that “recent moves” by NATO left no longer “basic conditions for common work.” He said in case of urgent matters, NATO could liaise via the Russian ambassador in Belgium.

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