March 27, 2018 / 3:49 PM / 9 months ago

Expulsion of Russian diplomats shows NATO relevance - Mattis

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis lands in Kabul on March 13, 2018 on an unannounced trip to Afghanistan. REUTERS/Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that NATO’s expulsion of Russian diplomats showed the alliance was still relevant, adding that Moscow had the potential to be a partner with Europe but had chosen a different path.

“Russia has the potential to be a partner with Europe ... (but) I think right now we have to recognise that they have chosen to seek a different relationship with the NATO nations,” Mattis told reporters.

Earlier on Tuesday, NATO said it was expelling seven diplomats from Russia’s mission to the alliance. It followed moves by governments in Europe, the United States and beyond to expel more than 100 Russian diplomats in retaliation for an alleged attack on a former Russian spy in Britain.

Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Paul Simao

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