NATO Secretary-General George Robertson told a meeting of the organization’s foreign ministers in Reykjavik, Iceland, ”Together, the countries that spent four decades glowering at each other across the wall of hatred and fear now have the opportunity to transform Euro-Atlantic security for the better.”
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and other NATO ministers negotiated the deal with Russian officials. It calls for establishing a NATO-Russia council to battle terrorism, stem the flow of weapons and work toward better security.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called the deal “the last rites, the funeral of the Cold War,” adding, “fifteen years ago Russia was the enemy, now Russia becomes our friend and ally. There could be no bigger change.”
Although Russia does not gain full NATO membership in the pact, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the move would help his country and NATO’s 19 member nations bolster their security.
“We not only can, but we are obliged to act as partners in the face of this new threat,” he said.
Although NATO had previously limited its scope of operations to the Euro-Atlantic area, Robertson said the alliance should remove such restrictions since many new threats come from terrorist networks and other non-state groups.
The move came a day after the United States and Russia announced a treaty to reduce their nuclear weapons arsenal by two-thirds.
The treaty, expected to be signed May 24 during President Bush’s trip to Moscow, would limit each nation to a stockpile of 1,700 to 2,200 long-range nuclear warheads by 2012.
The U.S. currently has 6,000 such weapons; Russia has some 5,500.