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NATO-Russia Focus On Joint Cooperation Council - 2001-11-22

NATO Secretary General George Robertson is holding talks with top Russian officials in Moscow on ways for the military alliance to upgrade its relations with Moscow. He says many ideas are under discussion at a time when relations between the former Cold War enemies are changing rapidly.

Secretary General Robertson says he came to Russia to discuss ways to broaden ties between Moscow and NATO in what he calls this "new era of unprecedented" cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

The NATO chief is holding meetings with top Russian leaders to discuss ways for Russia to have more of a say on certain security issues.

Mr. Robertson says it is possible that in the future, Russia may play an active role in making decisions with NATO's 19 members.

The decision to enhance Russia's role in NATO's decision-making would not mean Russia would become an actual NATO member.

One proposal to bring the two sides closer is to form what might be called the Russia-North Atlantic Council or "ARNAC," in which Russia would have an equal say with the alliance members. "Now that would involve Russia having an equality with the NATO countries in terms of the subject matter, and would be part of the same compromising, trade-offs, give and take that is involved in day-to-day NATO business," Mr. Robertson said.

Mr. Robertson says such a council might act on issues such as preventing the spread of nuclear materials and military coordination for specific actions, such as the current war in Afghanistan.

Russia's strongly supported the U.S.-led coalition in the battle against the al-Qaida terrorist network and the Taleban.

Mr. Robertson says this is logical given that Russians face the same terrorist threat as people in the rest of the world. "The international terrorists have gone global," he said. "So why should we be all be dealing with things as individual nations? The international criminals have gone global. So it makes no sense for people to pretend that national boundaries are an insurance policy against the international terrorists."

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov says he approves of the proposal to create such a council.

The idea will be discussed at a meeting between Mr. Robertson and President Vladimir Putin on Friday.

Mr. Robertson began his visit to Russia with a stop in the southern city of Volgograd, scene of an epic battle against the invading Nazis during World War II.

The visit was meant to remind the world about the last time Russia and Western nations fought together to defeat a common enemy.