The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the permanent size of the Russian mission would be cut from 30 to 20 people, adding the announcement was “a clear and very strong message that there was a cost to Russia’s reckless actions” in poisoning the Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury earlier this month.
He claimed Russia had underestimated Nato’s resolve and said the announcements would reduce Russia’s capability to do intelligence work across Nato.The move came after more than 20 western allies ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack in the UK in a show of solidarity that represents the biggest concerted blow to Russian intelligence networks in the west since the cold war.
Speaking in Brussels at the end of consultations with Nato allies on Tuesday, Stoltenberg added that he did not think Russia had expected the west to show such resolve, pointing to the increased Nato military presence on the Russia border, higher defense spending and continued sanctions for Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
He said the Nato response was aimed not just at the poisoning in Salisbury, the first use of a nerve agent on Nato territory, but a response to a broader pattern of unacceptable and illegal behavior. More than 150 Russian diplomats expelled for various countries including US.