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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 19:19 GMT 20:19 UK
Nato and Russia 'bury Cold War'
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov (left) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Colin Powell
The deal gives Russia a practical role in Nato
Nato and Russia have agreed to establish a new joint decision-making body to counter terrorism and other security threats.

The proposed council, which is due to come into effect after a special Nato summit in Italy on 28 May, will allow Russia to join the alliance's decision-making process for the first time.

This is the last rites, the funeral of the Cold War

Jack Straw
UK Foreign Secretary

The document creating the new Nato-Russia Council was agreed by alliance foreign ministers and their Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov at a meeting in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said the accord promised a new chapter in relations with Russia - and with the other former Soviet states - while preserving Nato's ability to act independently.

The meeting came a day after Russia and the United States announced an historic agreement to slash their long-range nuclear arsenals by two-thirds over the next 10 years.

Nato Secretary General Lord Robertson said the agreement was a historic partnership while for British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw it marked the "funeral of the Cold War".

Click here for a guide to the US-Russian arsenal

The BBC's defence correspondent, Jonathon Marcus, says the council, which will meet every month, marks a new beginning, born in the wake of the 11 September terror attacks on America.

The new council will put Russia on an equal footing with Nato's existing members for the first time.

It paves the way for joint decisions on a range of issues, including the fight against terrorism, arms control, peacekeeping, missile defence and dealing with regional crises.

Nato's new challenges

Mr Powell said that Nato had to prepare for new challenges which could go far beyond Europe, the home continent of most of its members.

"The kinds of challenges Nato may be facing in the future won't always be located in central Europe and Nato has to have the ability to move to other places," he said.

US Poseidon missile
The US and Russia have agreed massive cuts in their nuclear arsenals
He said that Nato states had to have "highly mobile, sustainable forces with modern combat capabilities, forces that can get to the fight wherever it is and carry out a mission with efficiency and precision".

Lord Robertson added that conceptions of security had been shattered by 11 September, which he described as a "wake-up call".

The Nato ministers, who will continue talks into Wednesday, are also due to discuss plans for what will probably be the largest single intake of new members in the body's history.

Prospective new members include Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia and Albania.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are the most likely to be accepted at this stage.

A final decision on who will join will be taken at a meeting in Prague in November.

Arms cuts

In a sign of continuing post-Cold War rapprochement, US President George W Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans for a major round of disarmament on Monday.

The two leaders aim to cut the number of nuclear warheads on each side from their current levels of between 6,000 and 7,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200 over the next decade.

Mr Bush voiced optimism that the agreement "will make the world more peaceful and put behind us the Cold War once and for all".

The two leaders will sign the accord when Mr Bush visits Russia later this month.

here to return)

The BBC's David Shukman
"The Cold War seems far behind"
John Holum, former US Under-Secretary of State
"We have to worry about the potential for nuclear expertise to leak out"
Joseph Cirincione, Carnegie Endowment for Peace
"This is unquestionably a positive step"
See also:

14 May 02 | World
Russia's new role
14 May 02 | Europe
Belgian minister collapses
14 May 02 | World
Analysis: Nato's drive to adapt
14 May 02 | World
Q&A: The death of the Cold War
13 May 02 | World
Russia and US agree arms cuts
15 Oct 01 | Country profiles
Quick guide: Nato
01 May 02 | Country profiles
Timeline: Nato
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