NATO says Russia has halted all military cooperation with the Western alliance in the latest sign of tension between Moscow and the West over the invasion of Georgia.
Russia has suspended military cooperation with NATO nations
Alliance spokeswoman Carmen Romero said Thursday that NATO had received notification through military channels that Russia's Defense Ministry had decided “to halt international military cooperation events between Russia and NATO countries until further instructions.”
She said NATO took note of the decision. However, the spokeswoman told reporters that alliance foreign ministers had already agreed earlier in the week that they could not continue business as usual with Russia until Moscow fulfiled the terms of its peace deal with Georgia.
The tit-for-tat refusals to cooperate mark the lowest point in NATO-Russia relations since the foundation of the NATO-Russia Council, a body which was meant to improve dialogue between the Cold War foes, in 2002.
However, both sides have also stressed that they are keen to resume cooperation as soon as the other proves more tractable, in an apparent attempt to limit the diplomatic fallout of the conflict.
NATO won't cooperate with Russia: US spokesperson
The White House says military cooperation with Russia is currently a no-go
Simultaneously, the White House warned Thursday that there can be no Russia-NATO military cooperation until the crisis in Georgia has been remedied.
"I can't imagine a circumstance right now that we would engage in military cooperation with the Russians until the situation in Georgia is resolved," US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters.
NATO needs Russia in Afghanistan: Lavrov
Russian provides transit support for NATO in Afghanistan
Despite the negative exchange, Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, had insisted Thursday that both sides benefited from joint cooperation and he pointedly raised the issue of Russian transit support for Alliance forces in Afghanistan.
"It all depends on NATO priorities: if they prefer to support the bankrupt Saakashvili regime to partnership with Russia, that will not be our fault,” he said.
Estonia, Latvia, Norway informed by letter
In Tallinn, a spokesman for Estonia's Defence Ministry said it had been informed by letter that Russia had decided on the temporary suspension of military cooperation with NATO states.
The spokesman said the note, consisting of one sentence, had no extra details or an indication of a timescale.
In Latvia, a spokesman for the Defence Ministry said his nation had also received such a note. Both Latvia and Estonia said their countries had no military cooperation with Russia that would be affected by such a suspension.
On Wednesday, Norway, another NATO member, reported receiving similar notification from the Russians.