By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
July 6, 2009 - The United States and Russia today agreed to resume bilateral military cooperation, which has been on hold since the conflict between Russia and Georgia erupted in August. In a strategic framework agreement signed by Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his Russian counterpart, the two countries pledged to engage in a range of military-to-military exchanges and also to restore a joint commission on prisoners of war and servicemembers missing in action.
"This provides a framework for improved cooperation and interoperability between our armed forces, so that we can better address the threats that we face, from terrorism to piracy," President Barack Obama said during a news conference in Moscow today.
"We've also agreed to restore a joint commission on prisoners of war and missing in action, which will allow our governments to cooperate in our unwavering commitment to our missing servicemen and -women," he added.
The framework of understanding signed today by Mullen and Russian Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff, entails the following U.S.-Russian military-to-military operations:
-- Conducting nearly 20 exchanges and operational events before the end of 2009, including a strategic discussion between the U.S. Joint Staff and the Russian General Staff;
-- Orientation for Russian military cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.;
-- Planning for a joint exercise to respond to a hijacked aircraft in national and international airspace;
-- Visiting of the faculty of the Russian Combined Arms Academy to the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; and
-- A naval war game conducted by the Kuznetsov Naval Academy and the U.S. Naval War College.
Additionally, U.S. European Command and the Russian Defense Ministry have agreed to meet to plan a robust and more ambitious work plan for 2010.
"As global powers, the United States and Russia have a special responsibility for ensuring peace and stability in the world," a White House statement reads. "Re-establishing our military-to-military bonds will enhance transparency, establish clear paths of communication, and focus our collective efforts on today's global strategic challenges."
Following their meeting, Obama told reporters that he and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev held frank discussions, which included topics where the two leaders' views part.
"For instance, we had a frank discussion on Georgia, and I reiterated my firm belief that Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected," Obama said, alluding to Moscow's invasion of Georgia in August, which drew rebukes from the United States and NATO. "Yet even as we work through our disagreements on Georgia's borders, we do agree that no one has an interest in renewed military conflict."
Both leaders also are committed to leaving behind the suspicion and rivalry of the past to advance the countries' mutual interests, Obama said.
"Today, we've made meaningful progress in demonstrating through deeds and words what a more constructive U.S.-Russian relationship can look like in the 21st century," he said.