In a speech in Moscow Saturday, the top U.S. military officer called on Russian officers to forge a new defense relationship with the United States to help lead the world to a more stable future.  Admiral Mike Mullen spoke to students and teachers at Russia's Academy of the General Staff. 

In a crowded lecture hall, Admiral Mullen called on more than 100 mid- and senior-level Russian officers to help move U.S.-Russian military relations to a new level, and he said the idea has the support of the chief of Russia's general staff.

"Instead of merely settling for a relationship defined by differences, we have the opportunity to forge one based on mutual respect and the realization that our joint leadership must continue to be a cornerstone of security and stability for the world," he said. "It encourages me to know that my counterpart, General of the Army [Nikolai] Makorov, shares my belief in the power of our present opportunity."

Admiral Mullen's audience was mainly of colonels and lieutenant colonels, officers chosen for the prestigious mid-career training course, many of whom are headed for the rank of general and senior command posts in the coming decades.

"In this very room sit the future military leaders who will see the way ahead," he said. "Now is the time, here is the place, for the armed forces of Russia and the United States to commit themselves to a new and better relationship."

The admiral said in spite of differences on some issues, the U.S. and Russian defense establishments can work together to fight extremism and terrorism, promote nuclear stability and combat piracy on the high seas.  Those were among the topics he discussed Friday with top Russian defense leaders, along with differences over missile defense and the extent of the threat posed by Iran.

"Let us pledge to each other that, though we may not always see this new world in quite the same way, we will nevertheless see our way clear to dialogue and discussion and debate," said Admiral Mullen. "For from such things come understanding, and from understanding comes cooperation."

Admiral Mullen and his Russian counterpart will sign a new military cooperation agreement early next month, during President Barack Obama's visit to Moscow.  That will mark a significant turnaround from last year, when the United States froze military relations with Russia after it invaded Georgia.  Although differences remain with the new U.S. administration over Russia's Georgia policy, President Obama has said he wants to "reset" U.S.-Russian relations.

In the Saturday speech, Admiral Mullen praised great Russian generals of the past, and urged the young officers to remember that the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy called "time and patience" the "strongest of all warriors."  Then he invited their questions, but after a long period of awkward chatter among themselves, there were none, and the session adjourned early.