NATO Sees Thaw in Russia Ties

WASHINGTON -- NATO's top operational commander said he is optimistic that military relations with Moscow will soon begin to thaw after being frozen for months over Russia's brief war with Georgia.

NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe John Craddock said Friday that he wants to resume exercises, exchanges and other cooperation that ceased in the international rift between Russia and the West that followed Moscow's war with Georgia in August.

"It's essential we continue to engage," said Craddock, a U.S. Army general who also commands U.S. forces in Europe.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer met recently with Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, in the first high-level contacts between NATO and Moscow since August.

"We may see some thaw in that relationship," Craddock told reporters. "And then we can then revisit these opportunities that we had."

Craddock said he has proposed low-level exercises between the U.S. and Russian navies in the Mediterranean Sea but has had no response from the Russians so far.

Russia has welcomed NATO overtures, saying it does not want a new Cold War and describing its intervention in Georgia as a necessary act against Georgian aggression.