NATO-Russia Council meets for the first time in 2018

7 June 2018

The NATO-Russia Council (NRC) met at Ambassadorial level in Brussels on the 31 May 2018. The Russian delegation was led by their acting representative to the alliance Yuri Gorlach.

According to a NATO news release there was an “open exchange on several topics, including the situation in and around Ukraine, issues related to military activities, transparency and risk reduction, as well as asymmetric techniques as aspects of doctrine and strategy”. Both sides also briefed on major upcoming military exercises. NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise in and around Norway in October will include 40,000 troops and some 70 ships and 130 aircraft.

US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison tweeted that "In a meeting today @NATO, Allies shared a strong, unified message to Russia: Stop interfering in Ukraine & cease malign activities that seek to divide our Alliance". Agence France Presse cited an unnamed NATO diplomat as saying that “NATO allies expressed their deep concern over a wide range of issues, including cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns and interference in national elections."

NATO suspended practical cooperation with Russia in 2014 due to Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. For two years, ambassadors and ministers did not meet, until the NRC was revived in 2016.

This latest meeting of the NRC was the seventh over the past two years, and the first since October 2017 when alliance member states challenged Russia over its controversial Zapad military exercise. It was also the first since the nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent in the British city of Salisbury. NATO strongly criticized Moscow over the attack in March and expelled 7 Russian diplomats as part of a coordinated international response.

The NRC meeting took place as NATO prepares for its next summit in July, which will focus on five key areas from deterrence to modernisation and EU relations, with measures to "manage" ties with Russia a priority.

Most recently, NATO and the EU demanded that Russia accept responsibility for the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, an incident in which 298 civilians of multiple nationalities were killed.