WASHINGTON– The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he was pleased with what he described as frank discussions with his Russian counterpart on regional and international security during his first visit to Moscow.

The talks come after the two countries’ recent efforts to repair their relations, which were strained by the Russia-Georgia war last year and NATO’s expansion eastward.

“I’m very encouraged by our meetings and also by our mutual commitment to continue to address these issues and to strengthen our military-to-military relationship,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said today. “We have many common challenges … whether it’s Afghanistan, or the challenges in missile defense, or Iran, or particularly for security in Europe.

“[I] can’t emphasize enough my belief that we need to work these very, very hard challenges to improve security, not just in Europe, but also globally so that the world can actually move forward in a more stable way,” he added.

Mullen’s counterpart, Russian Gen. Nikolai Makarov, stated after a 90-minute meeting that the two countries will sign a military cooperation agreement for this year and beyond, but Mullen offered no confirmation. He said only that he was looking forward to the outcome of the summit between President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in two weeks.

Obama is scheduled to travel to Moscow to discuss an agenda that includes U.S. plans to set up an anti-missile defense system in Europe.

Mullen, who left for Russia on June 24, will round out his weeklong trip with a stop in Poland for talks with his counterpart there. He’ll also stop in Stuttgart, Germany, where he and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will preside over the European Command’s change of command ceremony. Army Gen. John Craddock will turn over EUCOM’s reigns to Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis at Husky Field on Patch Barracks on June 30.

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