Fox News on May 12, 2015, reported that NATO has moved to expel dozens of suspected Russian spies from its headquarters in Brussels in the latest sign of a renewal of tensions between the western military alliance and Moscow. Excerpts below:
…NATO decided last month to mandate that all non-member state delegations reduce their staff to no more than 30 people. The new rule only affected Russia, though estimates of the exact number of Russian delegates vary. The Kremlin says it has only 37 people accredited to work in Brussels. However, a diplomat from a NATO member state said that in fact 61 people were part of the delegation. Other NATO sources told the paper the number was as high as 90.
Regardless of the number NATO diplomats estimate that approximately half of the Russian contingent was working on behalf of Moscow’s intelligence service. In practice only Russia’s ambassador to NATO, his deputy, his secretary, and his driver, were allowed to traverse the alliance’s offices without being escorted.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg denied in an interview that the new rule specifically targeted Russia, saying, “With the Russians we have decided to suspend all practical co-operation but to maintain the channels of political and military dialogue and contact. A delegation of 30 is more than enough to do that.”
NATO has revived the Cold War-era practice of using hotlines to the Kremlin and the Russian general staff in an effort to reduce the chances of military confrontation. Stoltenberg disclosed that NATO jets had intercepted an increasing number of Russian planes in recent months over the Black, Baltic, and Norwegian seas.
“It’s important to have contacts military to military in a normal situation so that if something not normal happens, you’re able to clarify misunderstandings, to avoid situations out of control,” Stoltenberg said.
Western nations say Russia supports the separatists with arms and manpower, and even directs some battlefield operations — all claims Moscow denies. In return, the Russians bristle at Washington’s provisions to Ukraine of military assistance in the form of hardware and training.
The Associated Press and British The Guardian contributed to this report.