US, Russia sign agreements to enhance defence ties
Washington: Once bitter rivals during the Cold War era, the US and Russia on Wednesday signed two agreements to enhance their military ties, as US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the two countries now face similar difficulties and challenges.
Gates hosted his Russian counterpart Anatoliy Serdyukov at the Pentagon headquarters of the Defence Department in a high-profile visit symbolising a "reset" in the bilateral ties.
The five hours of meeting between the two leaders was followed by a private riverboat dinner marking Serdyukov's maiden tour to the US and first visit to the Pentagon by a Russian defence minister in more than five years.
Gates and Serdyukov signed a Memorandum of Understandings outlining the US-Russia military relationship that places defence cooperation as a cornerstone of broader relations, and notes shared threats and similar challenges.
"Superseding the 1993 Memorandum of Understanding, it underscores that defence cooperation is an important element of strengthening the wider US-Russian relationship, especially now, when our two countries confront many similar security threats and challenges," Gates said.
"We believe this will lead to more joint programs, exchanges, exercises and activities between our two defence establishments in a number of areas," he said at the signing ceremony.
They also signed an agreement creating a defence relations working group that is to resolve issues in armed forces reform and transformation, defence policy priorities and national security, transparency and confidence-building, and regional and global security.
"This group, co-chaired by Minister Serdyukov and myself, will meet at least once each year at our level, together with more frequent working-level exchanges," Gates said.
"We had a very profound and detailed discussion of all issues that are facing -- or issues and challenges that are facing Russia and the United States in this sphere. I believe the dialogue we had today will be fruitful for both of us, for me and for Secretary Gates. We have discussed a very extensive scope of issues of regional and national - and global security," Serdyukov said.
"We have discussed in detail the issues pertaining to the national missile defence and the challenges facing us and the progress made by our joint work group in this aspect. We also discussed various proposals made by both sides. I hope that we will continue our efforts and cooperate closely in all aspects," he said.
"I do hope that my visit to the United States will provide a very powerful impetus to the development of the relations between our nations. I would like to reiterate that our dialogue was very fruitful and constructive," said the Russian defence minister.