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Andrey Kortunov

Ph.D. in History, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member

The NATO decision on Russian diplomats was seen in Moscow as the last straw to break the camel’s back. The Kremlin sees no need in pretending that dialogue with NATO still exists when the two sides are past talking. Both Russia and NATO will try to impose full responsibility for the termination of the dialogue on the other. Both seem to be convinced that the risks associated with the final breakdown of communication lines between them are affordable. We can only hope that they are right because if they are wrong, we will all be in big trouble before too long.

After NATO revoked the accreditation of eight employees of the Russian mission to the alliance and reduced the number of accreditations for the Russian Federation to ten, the Russian reaction was easy to predict. Moscow apparently lost its last hopes for restoring a substantive dialogue with NATO in Brussels and retaliated by suspending the work of its permanent mission in the alliance, including the work of the chief military representative. On top of that, the Russian side suspended the activities of the NATO military liaison mission in Moscow and terminated the work of the NATO information office. These actions might look dramatic or excessive, but they have their own logic and reflect the unfortunate dynamics of the NATO-Russia relations.

For a couple of years, Russia has tried to relaunch the military dimension of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), insisting on reactivating military-to-military contacts at the operational level. From the Russian viewpoint, these contacts would not constitute a precedent for the “business as usual” that NATO says it is unwilling to return to, nor explicitly violate the NATO decision of 2014 to stop its military cooperation with Moscow. However, without the military dimension, the operations of the NRC would be essentially limited to a formal exchange of official positions on divisive international problems. The NATO side has never accepted Russia’s proposals; moreover, as the language of the final communique of the June 2021 NATO summit suggests, deterring Russia (not China) remains the main raison d’être of the Atlantic Alliance, and a dialogue with Moscow for NATO today is more a general political slogan rather than a practical action plan.

The NATO decision on Russian diplomats was seen in Moscow as the last straw to break the camel’s back. The Kremlin sees no need in pretending that dialogue with NATO still exists when the two sides are past talking. Both Russia and NATO will try to impose full responsibility for the termination of the dialogue on the other. Both seem to be convinced that the risks associated with the final breakdown of communication lines between them are affordable. We can only hope that they are right because if they are wrong, we will all be in big trouble before too long.

Source: ELN

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