NATO withdraws accreditation for two Russian diplomats
Moscow is preparing sanctions against NATO in response to the withdrawal of accreditation for two Russian diplomats suspected by NATO’s security service of “activities incompatible with diplomatic activities.” This is the first such incident since NATO and Russia established diplomatic relations in 1997.
Moscow is preparing sanctions against NATO in response to the withdrawal of accreditation for two Russian diplomats suspected by NATO’s security service of “activities incompatible with diplomatic activities.” This is the first such incident since NATO and Russia established diplomatic relations in 1997. According to Dmitri Rogozin, Russia’s permanent envoy at NATO, “a response is certain to follow, and it will affect Russia-NATO bilateral relations.” Rogozin didn’t say exactly what Russia will do, but he noted that there is a NATO information center in Russia, and a military relations mission.
Russia-NATO relations, strained due to NATO’s plans to hold military exercises in Georgia this May, could deteriorate even further now. The new conflict has been sparked by a sudden demarche from the NATO leadership: NATO accreditation was withdrawn last week from two diplomats at the Russian envoy’s office – Viktor Kochukov, head of the political department, and attache Vasili Chizov (the son of Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s permanent envoy to European communities).
The Financial Times was the first to report the sanctions against Russian diplomats. According to that report, NATO decided to expel Kochukov and Chizhov due to a major spy scandal involving senior Estonian official Hermann Simm, who passed NATO secrets to Russia and has been sentenced to 12 years in prison. Following that article, NATO officially acknowledged that Kochukov and Chizhov have lost their accreditation.
NATO’s decision drew a high-strung response from Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry said: “This is a blatant act of provocation with regard to two personnel from Russia’s permanent office at NATO. Under a completely fabricated pretext, with no coherent explanations at all, NATO’s security service is seeking to expel them from Brussels.”
Envoy Dmitri Rogozin also described the sanctions against his subordinates as an act of provocation, promising that Moscow’s response will be “cool and balanced.” Rogozin told us some details of the incident, stating that he has reason to consider it “more than just a spy scandal.”
Rogozin said: “NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer gave me this unpleasant news straight after the Russia-NATO Council meeting, in the presence of NATO security service chief Michael Ivanoff, an American.” According to Rogozin, this was unethical – since he had no opportunity to announce and discuss this information at the Council meeting, attended by envoys from all NATO states.
Rogozin said that the allegations against diplomats Kochukov and Chizhov “don’t stand up to criticism.” Rogozin said: “Viktor Kochukov is a senior diplomat – everyone at NATO knows him well. Vasili Chizhov is a newcomer – a recent graduate who joined the office when I took over as envoy – he used to work at the Foreign Ministry’s central apparatus. When I heard from Scheffer that they are being expelled in connection with the Simm case, I first thought he was joking. This indicates that NATO’s security service has acted extremely unprofessionally – like a bad detective who catches an innocent person and declares him a murderer.” Rogozin also pointed out that Ivanoff was appointed to head the NATO security service after being nominated by former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
When asked about Russia’s actions, Rogozin said that “a response is certain to follow, and it will affect Russia-NATO bilateral relations.” He went on to say: “This is an attempt to blow up the situation and wreck our relations with NATO. Those responsible expected us to respond in kind. But we won’t do that. We don’t want to play along with those who oppose efforts to improve our relations with NATO.” Rogozin noted that NATO has an information center and a military relations mission on Russian territory – but he declined to comment on the possibility of sanctions against these offices.