Russia accepted NATO's decision at a two-day summit in Lisbon,
Portugal to develop a missile defense system to protect Europe's
territory and population from ballistic missile attack.
[239 187 191 ]In a speech last week to "young Atlanticists" -
young people from Europe, the US, and Canada - NATO Secretary
General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he realized that to them, talking
about the cold war must be akin to discussing the Peloponnesian War.
Yet the six-decade-old North Atlantic defense alliance between
Europe and North America has its origins in the cold war. And that
is one reason that anyone a little older than Mr. Rasmussen's
audience could have been justifiably amazed at the degree of
cooperation launched between NATO and its old nemesis, Russia, at
this weekend's NATO summit.
As Russian President Dmitry Medvedev joined NATO leaders
including President Obama on Saturday, Russia formally agreed to
expand its cooperation with the NATO effort in Afghanistan. Russia
will allow more NATO supplies to pass through its territory, and for
the first time agreed that non-lethal military equipment leaving
Afghanistan can also exit across its borders.
Perhaps even more striking for anyone with memory of the cold
war, Russia not only accepted NATO's decision at the summit to
develop a missile defense system to protect Europe's territory and
population from ballistic missile attack, but Mr. Medvedev also
agreed to a plan for Russia and NATO to study missile defense
cooperation and how the two might eventually coordinate their
In a post-summit press conference, President Obama said that one
advantage of launching NATO-Russia cooperation on missile defense
was to demonstrate how "a topic of past tension can become a point
of cooperation in the future." Obama, who referred to Medvedev as
"my friend and partner" - a characterization that hinted at what is
one of the few warm relationships Obama has developed with a foreign
leader - said that just as the US and Russia have "reset" their
relations, "we are also resetting the NATO-Russia partnership."
Focus on 21-century threats
NATO's reinvigorated cooperation with Russia - a process that
began earlier in the decade, but was cut off in 2008 over Russia's
incursion into Georgia and occupation of two Georgian regions - was
only one of the summit's signs of the cold war era retreating
further into history books. More broadly, the new "strategic
concept" or mission statement the Alliance leaders adopted was a re-
orientation of NATO away from the 20th-century threats of its
origins to those of the 21st century.
As Gen. Brent Scowcroft, former national security advisor to
Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. …