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NATO and Russia seek to bury past differences

NATO's secretary general has saluted what he said was an historic turning point in the often tense ties between Moscow and the West. NATO plans to invite Moscow to take part in its missile defense shield.

Rasmussen, Medvedev and Socrates

It was the first meeting between Russia and NATO since 2008

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Saturday that differences between NATO and Russia over the war in Georgia now belonged to the past.

"We have overcome the difficulties of the past," said Medvedev following consultations of the NATO-Russia Council in Lisbon.

The Russian president said the main priority was to work together to combat terrorism, drug trafficking, piracy and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Medvedev accepted NATO's offer to open negotiations on Moscow joining a joint missile shield in Europe. The Russian president said, however, that his country would only participate if it is treated as an equal partner.

New beginnings

It was the first NATO-Russia summit since the end of the war between Georgia and Russia in 2008, which harmed relations between the two powers. The stance of the then US President George W. Bush also heightened tensions between NATO and Russia.

Rasmussen

Rasmussen said Russia and NATO should work together

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the two sides have now put that period behind them.

"Today marks a fresh start in NATO-Russia relations," Rasmussen said. "For the first time in history, NATO countries and Russia will be cooperating to defend themselves."

Perhaps the most visible sign of cooperation will be the joint development of a common missile defense shield. NATO has invited Moscow to take part in the defense system, linking Russia to the planned European anti-missile umbrella.

In principle, Russia has accepted the proposition. However, Medvedev had one condition.

"Our participation must be on completely equal terms," Medvedev said. "We will only take part if we are partners. We won't accept any other form of participation."

US-Russia relations also changing

US President Barack Obama stressed that Washington was also seeking to "reset" its relations with Moscow. He said both sides had common security concerns.

Barack Obama

Obama also wants to 'reset' ties with Russia

However, Obama is facing a major obstacle at home, as the US Senate is threatening to delay ratification of a landmark nuclear arms reduction pact. Obama has appealed to his opponents in the Senate, putting pressure on them to sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

"Unprompted, I've received overwhelming support from our allies here that the new START treaty is a critical component to US and European security," Obama said. "They have urged both privately and publicly that this gets done."

Even when a number of issues are a long way from being solved, and many details on the planned cooperation projects still need to be hammered out, the positive atmosphere at the summit was striking.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said ratification of the START treaty would be "a giant step forwards and the final end to the chapter of the Cold War."

Author: Christoph Hasselbach, Lisbon/nt, ji
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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