The Lisbon meet is the first between a Russian president and the 28-member alliance in two years [Reuters]

Nato and Russia have agreed to co-operate on missile defence and other security issues in what is seen as improving ties that have been strained since Russia’s military intervention in Georgia two years ago.

The former Cold War enemies agreed at talks during the Nato summit in Lisbon to revive a project aimed at protecting Nato and Russian armed forces from missile attack that had been suspended after the 2008 incident.

"For the first time in history, Nato countries and Russia will be cooperating to defend themselves"

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato secretary-general

The two sides also agreed on Saturday to conduct a joint study on how Russia could join a new system designed to protect Europe and North America from long-range missiles fired from the Middle East.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary-general, and Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, said they had made a "historic" step forward in putting aside the problems of the past.

"Today marks a fresh start in Nato-Russia relations," Rasmussen said. "For the first time in history, Nato countries and Russia will be cooperating to defend themselves.

Common interests

"Our security is indivisible. We share important interests and face the same threats to our common security."

Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee, reporting from the Nato summit, said that the new ties between Russia and the West are still fragile. 

"As much as Nato talks up the new rapprochement with Moscow, it's still true that everyone's treading on eggshells and the potential for things to go wrong again is unquestionable.
 
"The warning from history, which the Russians know only too well, is that you can't win in Afghanistan.
 
"But all the same Russia is as worried about al-Qaeda and the Taliban as Nato, and for now that's what's moving things forward," our correspondent said.

Rasmussen said a joint review of 21st century security challenges had concluded that Nato and Russia posed no threat to each other.

Medvedev, right, says his country has to be treated as equal partner [Reuters]

"That alone draws a clear line between the past and the future of Nato-Russia relations," he said.

"We have identified the real threats, including terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the spread of missiles that can hit our territory even today."

This new Nato system will link existing European anti-missile systems to radars and interceptors the United States plans to deploy in the Mediterranean, Romania, Poland and possibly Turkey.

But the Russian president warned that his country would have to be treated as an equal partner if it is to participate.

"Either we participate fully, exchange information, are in charge of solving these or those issues or we do not participate at all," Medvedev said.

Russian officials have in the past expressed reservations about the plan, fearing it could negate the strategic value of Russia's own ballistic missiles. It was also reluctant to join a programme that had defined Iran as a potential missile threat, as had Nato member Turkey.

Source: Aj Jazeera and agencies