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Thursday 14 December 2017

Russia agrees to deal with Nato

David Brunnstrom

NATO and Russia agreed yesterday to cooperate on missile defence and other security issues, and hailed a fresh start in relations strained since Russia's intervention in Georgia in 2008.

At a summit meeting in Lisbon, Russia also agreed to boost its support for the troubled Nato mission in Afghanistan by allowing more Nato supplies through its territory and providing helicopters for the Afghan armed forces.

Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the meeting represented a "fresh start" towards more trust between the sides, which froze ties after Russian forces invaded Nato ally Georgia.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said a "period of difficult, strained relations had been overcome".

"We have large-scale plans, we will be working in all areas, including European missile defence," he told reporters.

Nato leaders agreed on Friday last to develop an anti-missile system to protect the territory of all Nato member states in Europe and North America, and to invite Russia to join the project.

It will be capable of intercepting long-range missiles fired from the Middle East.

Mr Rasmussen said the two sides agreed to revive a project aimed at protecting their armed forces from missile attack suspended after the Georgia intervention and to conduct a joint study to broaden the project to protect populations and territory.

The summit also saw Nato nations formally agreed to start reducing troop levels in Afghanistan next year and hand over control of security to the Afghans in 2014.

But the US and its allies appeared to take conflicting views on when Nato combat operations would end.

Mr Rasmussen said he did not expect Nato troops to stay in the fight against the Taliban after 2014.

"I don't foresee ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops in a combat role beyond 2014, provided of course that the security situation allows us to move into a more supportive role," Mr Rasmussen told reporters.

But later a senior Obama administration official said the US had not committed to ending its combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to protect internal discussions.

The US official said a decision on changing the US mission in Afghanistan was not imminent because it was still unclear what the security needs and resources would be.

Each Nato member country will make an individual decision on when their combat mission will change, the official said.

The US view may reflect a reluctance to forecast when combat will end, in order not to give the Taliban a sense of hope for outlasting their adversary.

Sunday Independent

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