Russia, NATO sign military deal
VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNN) -- NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have signed an agreement that will allow joint military exercises and eventually a joint military capability.
Also Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met in Vilnius, Lithuania with members from the opposition in Belarus. Rice has repeatedly called Belarus "the last true dictatorship" in Europe.
"We welcome you, we look forward to hearing from you, we think that the road to democracy in Belarus, while it may seem difficult and long and at times even far away, there will be a road to democracy in Belarus," Rice said. (Full story)
The so-called status of forces agreement was inked at the NATO-Russia Council taking place in Lithuania, a former member of the Soviet Union and one of three Baltic nations to join NATO in 2004.
De Hoop Scheffer called the agreement a "concrete milestone in practical NATO-Russia cooperation" that "will provide us with a much needed legal framework that enhances our ability to act together in the face of common threats."
During the NATO-Russia Council, ministers will hold talks on Afghanistan, Kosovo and Georgia.
"The NATO-Russia council has become an effective forum for ... practical cooperation," De Hoop Scheffer said.
"But equally important is its role as a forum for political dialogue where we can discuss openly, also when we might not entirely agree in the spirit of true partnership and see ever great opportunities for common approaches and common challenges."
The NATO talks will center on turning the trans-Atlantic alliance into the primary venue for political dialogue on international issues, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and democratic reform in the Middle East.
NATO ministers also will discuss the steps Ukraine must take in order to join the alliance.