WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2010 — The NATO-Russia Council Summit that took place in Lisbon, Portugal, offers another step toward the reset of relations between the United States and Russia, President Barack Obama said today.
“We see Russia as a partner, not an adversary,” Obama told reporters during the NATO Summit’s final press briefing.
During the NRC meeting, he said, NATO leaders and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to deepen their cooperation on Afghanistan, counternarcotics efforts and a range of 21st century security challenges.
“Perhaps most significantly,” Obama said, “we agreed to cooperate on missile defense, which turns a source of past tension into a source of potential cooperation against a shared threat.”
The NRC, established at the NATO-Russia Summit in Rome in 2002, is a mechanism for consultation, cooperation and joint action in which NATO member states and Russia work as partners on a range of common security issues.
The alliance suspended formal meetings and cooperation in some areas after Russia’s military action in Georgia in August 2008, then decided in March 2009 to resume formal meetings. The NATO secretary general chairs these meetings.
In Lisbon, a joint statement issued by Medvedev and his counterparts from the other 28 NRC member states said the council would resume theater ballistic missile defense exercises and identify opportunities for Russia to cooperate with NATO’s new territorial missile defense capability by June 2011.
“Here in Lisbon we are laying the foundations for stronger ties between our 29 nations than has ever been the case until now, which is why today marks a fresh start in NATO-Russia relations,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
“As evidence of our determination to cooperate together,” he added, “I am pleased to be able to announce today the completion of arrangements that will allow for the expanded transit of equipment to the [International Security Assistance Force] mission via the Russian Federation. I thank President Medvedev for his support.”
The council also approved a joint review of common security challenges that will guide NATO-Russia security cooperation, agreed to expand cooperation in support of the Afghan government, and committed to making better use of the NRC to manage crises.
On counterterrorism, the NRC said it would strengthen cooperation by jointly developing technology to detect explosives, countering terrorist threats to civil aviation and exchanging information about terrorism.
Russia confirmed its interest in resuming its support to NATO’s counterterrorist operation, called Active Endeavour, in the Mediterranean Sea.
To fight the maritime security threat of piracy and armed robbery at sea, NRC member states said they will expand existing tactical level cooperation through joint training and exercises.
Rusmussen said the most significant thing about the list of NATO-Russia common security challenges is what’s not there — each other.
“The NATO nations and Russia have today agreed in writing that, while we face many security challenges, we pose no threat to each other. That, alone, draws a clear line between the past and the future of NATO-Russia relations,” he said.
Obama also announced that the United States would host the next NATO summit in 2012.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)