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Cold war era fades further as Russia, NATO agree to 'reset' relations

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.

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev gives a media briefing at the end of a NATO summit in Lisbon on Saturday. NATO planned Saturday to deliver a historic invitation for Russia to join a missile shield protecting Europe against Iranian attack, a milestone for an alliance that was built to defend against Soviet forces.

Armando Franca/AP

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In a speech last week to “young Atlanticists” - young people from Europe, the US, and CanadaNATO 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 systems.

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