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NATO Chief Says Relations With Russia at Their Lowest Since Cold War

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, speaks with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during a group photo of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Oct. 21, 2021.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday relations between the alliance and Russia are at their lowest point since the Cold War ended.

Stoltenberg made the comments as NATO defense ministers began two-day meetings in Brussels.

Tensions have risen between Russia and NATO over recent weeks, as Russia announced Monday it was suspending its permanent mission to NATO in response to the alliance’s expulsion of eight Russians earlier this month. The alliance had accused the Russians of spying, which the Kremlin denied.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Stoltenberg said he regretted Russia’s decision to close the alliance’s office in Moscow. He said they still have channels for communications with Russia, but this makes it more difficult.

But the NATO chief said this difficult situation just makes it more important that the two sides continue to talk. He said NATO will continue to strive for a constructive dialogue with Russia.

Stoltenberg also said NATO is going through a transformation, with member nations refocusing their collective defenses “to protect our own territory.” The defense ministers are set to agree on a new master plan to defend against any potential Russian attack on multiple fronts.

NATO allies will also address Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover of the country.

"The 'lessons learned' process has to focus on both what did not work, but also what worked," during the alliance’s involvement in the country, Stoltenberg said.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the NATO chief said, “The most urgent role NATO has, and the most immediate task we are faced with, is to resettle Afghans who worked with us.”

Stoltenberg said NATO allies and partners were able to get more than 120,000 people out of Afghanistan and continue to work on evacuating more.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.