Cold war era fades further as Russia, NATO agree to 'reset' relations
Russia accepted NATO’s decision at a two-day summit in Lisbon, Portugal to develop a missile defense system to protect Europe’s territory and population from ballistic missile attack.
In a speech last week to “young Atlanticists” - young people from Europe, the US, and Canada – NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he realized that to them, talking about the cold war must be akin to discussing the Peloponnesian War.Skip to next paragraph
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Yet the six-decade-old North Atlantic defense alliance between Europe and North America has its origins in the cold war. And that is one reason that anyone a little older than Mr. Rasmussen’s audience could have been justifiably amazed at the degree of cooperation launched between NATO and its old nemesis, Russia, at this weekend’s NATO summit.
As Russian President Dmitry Medvedev joined NATO leaders including President Obama on Saturday, Russia formally agreed to expand its cooperation with the NATO effort in Afghanistan. Russia will allow more NATO supplies to pass through its territory, and for the first time agreed that non-lethal military equipment leaving Afghanistan can also exit across its borders.
Perhaps even more striking for anyone with memory of the cold war, Russia not only accepted NATO’s decision at the summit to develop a missile defense system to protect Europe’s territory and population from ballistic missile attack, but Mr. Medvedev also agreed to a plan for Russia and NATO to study missile defense cooperation and how the two might eventually coordinate their systems.
In a post-summit press conference, President Obama said that one advantage of launching NATO-Russia cooperation on missile defense was to demonstrate how “a topic of past tension can become a point of cooperation in the future.” Obama, who referred to Medvedev as “my friend and partner” – a characterization that hinted at what is one of the few warm relationships Obama has developed with a foreign leader – said that just as the US and Russia have “reset” their relations, “we are also resetting the NATO-Russia partnership.”
Focus on 21-century threats
NATO’s reinvigorated cooperation with Russia – a process that began earlier in the decade, but was cut off in 2008 over Russia’s incursion into Georgia and occupation of two Georgian regions – was only one of the summit’s signs of the cold war era retreating further into history books. More broadly, the new “strategic concept” or mission statement the Alliance leaders adopted was a re-orientation of NATO away from the 20th-century threats of its origins to those of the 21st century.