Deepening relations between Russia and NATO will be one of the main themes for discussion at a meeting of the alliance's defence ministers to be held in Brussels on December 18-19, a well-informed source in the British Defence Ministry said on Friday. According to the source, this meeting and a session of the Russia-NATO Joint Permanent Council held as it part and attended by Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, will provide a good chance for exchanging opinions and making steps towards establishing a new format at 20 in relations between Moscow and the alliance. Attention will be focused on practical relations, in particular on working out mechanisms of joint action on such problems as the struggle against terrorism, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, new threats to security, peacekeeping operations and possibly joint training exercises, the source noted. "NATO is interested in practical cooperation with Russia already now," he noted. As the source said, it is as yet difficult to predict how the sides will incorporate all new things in NATO-Russia relations that will be arrived at during a discussion of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's idea about a new format for relations with Moscow. In his view, the rate of moving over to a new and higher level of relations between NATO and Russia and forms of sealing cooperation at the new level will depend on the efforts of both sides. This has all the necessary pre-requisites: namely, collective consent by the alliance's member-countries to develop relations with Russia and the existence as a basis for this of the earlier document on partnership for peace.
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