NATO chief says alliance is not trying to isolate Russia

OTTAWA (Reuters) – NATO is not aiming to isolate Russia after a nerve agent attack on a former Russian agent and his daughter in Britain last month but had to crack down to show its unhappiness with Moscow, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The alliance last week expelled seven diplomats from the Russian mission to NATO and cut the maximum size of the delegation to 20 from 30 after the attack, which the West blames on Moscow, although the Kremlin denies it.

“We continue to strive for a better relationship with Russia because Russia is our neighbor, Russia is there to stay. We are not aiming at isolating Russia,” Stoltenberg said in remarks at the University of Ottawa.

Stoltenberg said NATO was concerned by a more assertive Russia that he said had annexed Crimea, destabilized eastern Ukraine, backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and meddled in the affairs of other nations.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg listens to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

“That was the reason why NATO allies and partners reacted the way they reacted after the attack in Salisbury. Because that is not a single event,” he said. “It is an attack…

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