NATO leaders have agreed to develop a missile-defense shield linking systems in the United States and Europe to protect the 28 NATO member states against long-range missile threats from regions such as the Middle East.
U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking November 19 at the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, said Russia would be invited to take part in developing the system.
Obama told reporters that NATO member states and Russia "share many of the same threats."
"I'm pleased to announce that for the first time, we've agreed to develop missile defense capability that is strong enough to cover all NATO European territory and populations, as well as the United States," Obama said.
"This important step forward builds on the new phased adaptive approach to missile defense that I announced for the United States last year," Obama said. "It offers a role for all of our allies. It responds to the threats of our times. It shows our determination to protect our citizens from the threat of ballistic missiles. And tomorrow we look forward to working with Russia to build our cooperation with them in this area as well, recognizing that we share many of the same threats."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was scheduled to join the NATO summit on November 20 to discuss the missile-defense issue and other matters.
Moscow has been critical of previous U.S. plans for missile-defense in Europe, calling them a threat to Russian national security.
Obama also reportedly renewed his call to U.S. senators to quickly ratify a new nuclear arms reduction pact with Russia, saying in Lisbon that the START treaty to reduce the number of U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear warheads by one-third is "fundamental to America's national security."
He said that without ratification, Russia may be less cooperative in enforcing sanctions on Iran, securing nuclear material from terrorists, or helping the United States equip troops in Afghanistan.
Ten-Year 'Action Plan'
In another development, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the NATO leaders had approved a new 10-year strategy aimed at clearing the way for the alliance to operate far beyond Europe and to counter threats from terrorism and Internet attacks.
Rasmussen said the strategic concept is "not just a statement of principles" but "an action plan" setting out concrete steps NATO will take in the years ahead:
"Here you have NATO's road map for the next 10 years," Rasmussen said. "It is really an historic moment."
Rasmussen said the strategy calls for NATO to remain as a nuclear alliance as long as there are nuclear weapons elsewhere in the world.
compiled from agency reports