BRUSSELS - Russia and NATO formally resumed military ties yesterday in the latest sign of improving relations between the Cold War rivals as they move to boost cooperation in the fight against insurgents in Afghanistan.
It was the first meeting between NATO and Russia military officials since relations broke down after Russia’s war with Georgia in August 2008.
General Nikolai Makarov, chief of staff in Russia, held talks with NATO’s top officer, Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola of Italy, before a formal meeting with the defense chiefs of NATO’s 27 member states, said Colonel Massimo Panizzi, spokesman for NATO’s military committee.
Officials said the meeting was expected to focus on furthering cooperation in areas of common interest such as Afghanistan and antipiracy and counterterrorism operations. No specific decisions were anticipated yesterday, but the talks were expected to pave the way for closer technical cooperation.
Relations between NATO and Moscow have improved steadily since they were suspended after the war with Georgia.
Foreign ministers met in June on the Greek island of Corfu, and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen held talks in Moscow last month with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Moscow has repeatedly expressed its willingness to help the war effort in Afghanistan because of fears that any return to power by Taliban extremists would destabilize Central Asia and endanger Russia’s own security. It has allowed NATO nations to use its territory and air corridors for the transport of supplies to Afghanistan; routes through Pakistan have come under repeated Taliban attack.
But Fogh Rasmussen and NATO’s military commander, US Admiral James Stavridis, have indicated they would like cooperation to be expanded to include items such as Russian military help in maintaining the large fleet of Soviet-built military helicopters being used by both the alliance and the Afghan Army and police.