NATO is not aiming to isolate Russia after a nerve agent attack on a former Russian agent and his daughter in Britain last month but had to crack down to show its unhappiness with Moscow, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
“We continue to strive for a better relationship with Russia because Russia is our neighbor, Russia is there to stay. We are not aiming at isolating Russia,” Stoltenberg said in remarks at the University of Ottawa.
Stoltenberg said NATO was concerned by a more assertive things Russia did like annexed Crimea, destabilized eastern Ukraine, backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and meddled in the affairs of other nations.
“That was the reason why NATO allies and partners reacted the way they did after the attack in Salisbury. Because that is not a single event,” he said. “It is an attack which has taken place (against) the backdrop of a pattern of behavior which we have seen over many years from Russia.”
More than 100 Russian diplomats have been expelled by Western countries to punish the Kremlin over the March 4 attack in Salisbury, England.
The alliance last week expelled seven diplomats from the Russian mission to NATO and cut the maximum size of the delegation to 20 from 30 after the attack, which the West blames on Moscow, although the Kremlin denies it.
NATO suspended all practical military and civilian cooperation with Russia after the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
As we reported earlier, Skripal, ex-GRU officer, was poisoned in British Salisbury on March 4. Later, Theresa May, UK Prime Minister, stated that Russia was responsible for that, and the investigation confirmed the use of Novichok nerve agent, produced in Russia.
Great Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats from the country as a reaction to the incident in Salisbury. Later, the Europen Union decided to withdraw its ambassador from Russia. Russian Foreign Ministry regards May's accusations on Skripal's case a provocation.