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NATO Secretary General in Russia to Talk About Combating Terrorism - 2002-12-08

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson is in Moscow for talks focused on security cooperation. A NATO-Russia conference on combating terrorism opens this week in Moscow.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson will meet with senior Russian leaders and attend a conference on ways Russian and NATO forces can work together to combat terrorism.

On Monday, he sees Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Mr. Robertson's trip is part of efforts by NATO and Russian leaders to bring the two sides closer together. Since the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, Russia has been a strong ally of the United States in the war against terrorism. The Russian president has also shifted his foreign policy, and now gives high priority to closer ties with Western countries and organizations like NATO.

In May of this year, Mr. Putin and NATO leaders signed a groundbreaking agreement making NATO a limited partner.

Some critics have said the much-heralded relationship between Russia and NATO lacks substance. They say the new relations so far consists of little in the way of military cooperation between Russian and NATO troops. Instead, they say, it involves mostly high-level meetings and summits.

Proponents of the new relationship say that, in the past, even this limited cooperation was rare, because relations between Russia and NATO were so rocky.

Russia strongly objected to the enlargement of NATO, when former Soviet satellite countries became members of the alliance, and Russia protested strongly against the NATO military campaign in Kosovo.

However, when NATO extended invitations in November to seven formerly communist countries, three of which had been in the old Soviet Union, reaction from Russia was muted.