OSLO, Norway – Russia has informed Norway that it plans to cut all military ties with NATO, Norway's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
The Nordic country's embassy in Moscow received a telephone call from "a well-placed official in the Russian Ministry of Defense," who said Moscow plans "to freeze all military cooperation with NATO and allied countries," State Secretary Espen Barth Eide at the Norwegian ministry said.
Eide told The Associated Press that the Russian official notified Norway it will receive a written note about this soon. He said Norwegian diplomats in Moscow would meet Russian officials on Thursday morning to clarify the implications of the freeze.
"It is our understanding that other NATO countries will receive similar notes," Eide said.
Russian officials were not immediately available to confirm the report, and the Russian ambassador to NATO did not reply to messages left on his cell phone.
Officials at NATO headquarters in Brussels said Moscow had not informed the alliance it was taking such a step.
Washington described the reported move as unfortunate.
"If this indeed is the case, it would be unfortunate. We need to work with Russia on a range of security issues, but we are obviously very concerned about Russian behavior in Georgia," U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.
On Tuesday, NATO foreign ministers said they would make further ties with Russia dependent on Moscow making good on a pledge to pull its troops back to pre-conflict positions in Georgia. However, they stopped short of calling an immediate halt to all cooperation.
Eide said he hoped NATO and Moscow would get back on track with dialogue and cooperation but said that Russia would first have to comply with a cease-fire in Georgia.
"I regret the situation has come to this," he said.
The hostilities between Russia and Georgia began earlier this month when Georgia cracked down on South Ossetia. The region is internationally recognized as being within Georgian borders but leans toward Moscow and regards itself as independent. Russia answered by sending its troops and tanks across the Georgian border.