Russia announced on Monday that it will be suspending its mission to the NATO alliance after they accused the country of employing intelligence officers at its mission’s office.
NATO alleged that eight Russians at its mission in Brussels were actually intelligence officers and ejected them from the site. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied the alliance’s claim, saying that “NATO isn’t interested in any kind of equal dialogue or joint work,” and that:
“As a result of NATO’s deliberate moves, we have practically no conditions for elementary diplomatic work. And in response to NATO’s actions, we suspend the work of our permanent mission to NATO, including the work of the chief military envoy, probably from November 1. Or it may take several more days,” he said.
“The alliance’s line towards our country is becoming more and more aggressive,” he added, accusing NATO of overblowing “the Russian threat” to maintain its “relevance.”
Other countries in the alliance have lamented the rift between Russia and NATO, saying that the clash deepens already existing strains between the countries. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Russia “will further prolong the difficult situation we’re in. this frosty period that’s been going on for some time, and that ” this will put a further serious strain on relations.”
NATO and Russia’s relationship has been fractured since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Russia and the history behind Crimea’s annexation
The Crimean region has been conquered and has become a colony for many historic empires and nomadic tribes throughout history. Scythians, Greeks, Byzantines and Genoese were among the people who fought over the influence on the region, while nomadic tribes such as the Goths and the Huns also tried to conquer the area.
The Peninsula was conquered mostly by the Turk-Mongols, who assimilated with the Turkic tribes already residing there. In 1441 they formed the “Crimean Khanate.” The Turkish-speaking natives are known today as the Crimean Tatars.
In 1774, after a peace treaty was signed between Russia and the Ottoman Empire on the war in which the Ottomans lost, Crimea was annexed to the Russian Empire and organized by Catherine the Great into the “Taurida Governorate.”
The region stayed under Russian authority until the 1950s, when USSR leader of Ukrainian origin Nikita Khrushchev annexed the Peninsula to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
In 1991, a referendum with an approval rating of 93.26 percent made Crimea an autonomous region within the USSR. As promised, though, a referendum on the secession of the region from Ukraine was upheld, thus betraying the Crimean people.
Today, it is estimated that 97 percent of the Crimean population is Russian-speaking, around 1,200,000 (58.3 percent) identify as Russians, 500,000 (24 percent) as Ukrainians and 12 percent as Tartars.
Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 in the wake of the Ukrainian revolution. The annexation caused the members of the G8 to suspend Russia and enforce sanctions against the country. The United Nations General Assembly was against the annexation and created a resolution that “underscores that the referendum [has] no validity, and cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of [Crimea].”