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Russia: Moscow Upgrades Status With NATO

Rome, 28 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of the 19 NATO nations today signed a declaration creating a new NATO-Russia Council to give Moscow a voice alongside NATO on some security issues. The leaders signed the declaration at a heavily guarded military base outside Rome. Putin called the new council "only a beginning" of closer ties between Russia and its Cold War adversary, NATO.

Putin said relations between Russia and NATO have been developing with an eye toward common security interests.

"Twenty influential countries of the world have come to understand their common security interests in this fast-changing international situation. They have adequately understood the need for closer cooperation as well as the global danger of new threats, and above all, the threat of international terrorism."

U.S. President George W. Bush called the Rome Declaration an "historic achievement." Bush said the NATO-Russia partnership brings the alliance closer to the larger goal of a Europe that is free, whole, and at peace.

The new council gives Russia an equal voice with the NATO countries on issues ranging from the fight against global terrorism to nonproliferation. However, Russia will not have veto power over NATO decisions.

Opening the meeting, NATO Secretary General George Robertson said the new NATO-Russia council said: "We, meeting here today (NATO and Russia), are a living contradiction of the forces which divided and weakened a continent for two generations, and for everyone who despaired during the frozen stretches of the Cold War, this gathering represents a hope of a better, saner future."