MOSCOW – The United States and Russia will sign a military cooperation agreement when US President Barack Obama visits in July, Moscow's top military commander said Friday after meeting his US counterpart.
The announcement reflects warming ties between Moscow and Washington and would have been unthinkable last August when the Georgia crisis pushed their relations to the lowest point since the Cold War.
Nikolai Makarov, the head of Russia's General Staff, announced the pact after meeting Admiral Mike Mullen in Moscow.
"We determined the basic matters of military cooperation in 2009 and in the future and intend to sign these documents during US President Barack Obama's visit to Moscow at the beginning of July," Makarov said.
Obama is due to visit on July 6-8 in a bid to improve relations with Russia that were badly strained under the administration of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Without giving further details about the agreement, Makarov stressed the importance of US-Russian cooperation and said that in his talks with Mullen the two men had found common ground on many issues.
"We reached an absolutely identical understanding that in the world there are many more threats and challenges that we should solve on the political and military levels," he said, quoted by all three major Russian news agencies.
Makarov said that the two military chiefs had discussed a range of issues including Afghanistan, North Korea and a controversial US plan to place elements of a global missile shield in Eastern Europe.
Mullen, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the meeting had taken place "in the spirit of openness and mutual understanding," according to news agencies which carried his comments in Russian.
"What I got from this meeting was a readiness to move forward, in order to find shared solutions to the problematic issues that stand before us," Mullen was quoted as saying.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have gradually improved since last August, when Russia fought a brief war with its southern neighbour Georgia, a staunch US ally that had sought to join the NATO military alliance.
The conflict brought condemnations from the White House, while the Pentagon cancelled or suspended military exercises with Russia in protest.
January's inauguration of Obama, who has pledged to "reset" US-Russian relations, has contributed to the friendlier atmosphere but obstacles still remain to smooth ties between the two former Cold War superpowers.
One major sticking point is the dispute over the US missile shield. Russia fiercely opposes a US plan to place anti-missile radars in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland, calling them a threat to Russian security.
Washington says the shield is no threat to Russia and is instead meant to protect against "rogue states" like Iran. But since Obama took power it has been reviewing the project.
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