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Russia to Join NATO in 'Milestone' Operation


Russia has announced it will join NATO in the first-ever joint naval operation since the end of Cold War.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said his country will join NATO's anti-terror naval patrols in the Mediterranean. He made the announcement after talks with NATO officials meeting in Berlin.

"Today I informed my NATO partners that Russia is determined to proceed with the exercise in the Mediterranean and that no later than January 2006 we will be sending a group of vessels from the Black Sea fleet and they will be active together with the vessels of our NATO partners," he said.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says the sight of NATO and Russian ships operating side-by-side will be historic.

"This is a milestone in NATO-Russia relationships as we see an anti-terrorist operation which has been going on conducted by NATO is joined not only politically, by the support the Russians have given us, but factually now by ships," he said.

The operation is code-named Active Endeavor. It began after the 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, with NATO monitoring ships and providing escorts in the Mediterranean.

Talks began last year on Russia joining the operation. NATO officials say the negotiations were complicated over logistical problems like ship communications and command-and-control.