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Bush Marks NATO-Russia Partnership

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 28, 2002 – "Two former foes are now joined as partners, overcoming 50 years of division and a decade of uncertainty," President Bush said today at the opening session of the NATO-Russia Council meeting in Rome.

The new NATO-Russia Council will allow the alliance's 19 member states and Russia to sit together as equals to discuss and to decide on issues of common concern, according to NATO officials. The council will operate on the principle of consensus.

"The NATO-Russia Council offers all our nations a way to strengthen our common security, and it offers the world a prospect of a more hopeful century," the president said. NATO is reaching out to Russia in a spirit of peace and friendship, Bush said, calling the new partnership a step toward "a Europe that is whole, free and at peace for the first time in history."

Russia is building freedom in its own land and is joining in the fight against terrorism, the president said. "The attacks of Sept. 11 made clear that the new dangers of our age threaten all nations, including Russia," he said. "The months since have made clear that by working together against these threats, we multiply our effectiveness."

The NATO-Russia Council, Bush noted, provides the opportunity to work together on common challenges and build ties that can be expanded into the future. This includes expanding cooperation on such areas as missile defense and airspace control that can strengthen the security of all of Europe, he said.

According to a NATO-Russia Council statement issued in Rome today, the council is a forum for consensus building, consultations, joint decisions and joint actions.

"The NATO-Russia Council will also intensify efforts in the struggle against terrorism, crisis management, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, arms control and confidence-building measures, theater missile defense, search and rescue at sea, military-to-military cooperation and defense reform, and civil emergencies, as well as in other areas," the statement said.

"We enter into this new level of cooperation with a great sense of responsibility and equally great resolve to forge a safer and more prosperous future for all our nations," the statement said. "We are united in our resolve to overcome the threats and challenges of our time."

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