Russia in from the Cold; Blair, Bush Welcome Putin to New NATO Council

Article excerpt

Byline: BEN LEAPMAN

GEORGE W BUSH and Tony Blair today welcomed Russia into the Western military fold at a historic Nato summit in Rome, billed as the official end of the Cold War.

The Prime Minister said a new East-West alliance would fight international terrorism and the threat from rogue states that have weapons of mass destruction.

Russian president Vladimir Putin hailed the summit as a breakthrough creating"a shared security base from Vancouver to Vladivostok".

He said: "A very short time ago, a meeting of this type would have been simply unthinkable." He compared the danger from terror groups like Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network to the Nazi threat in the Thirties.

The leaders were speaking at the inaugural meeting of the Nato-Russia Council, bringing together Russia and the 19 Nato countries. It gives Russia a strong say in Nato decisionmaking, though the country will not be a full Nato member and will have no veto.

President Bush, on the final stop of a European tour to shore up the alliance against terrorism, said: "The attacks of 11 September made clear that the new dangers of our age threaten all nations, including Russia."

Twenty national leaders, including French president Jacques Chirac and German chancellor Gerhard Schroder, attended the summit at Pratica di Mare base, 20 miles outside the Italian capital.

Mr Blair, sitting next to President Bush, told the summit: "British people today do not fear the Russian people. …