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Snarling Friends: NATO is "optimistic" about strengthening military-to-military cooperation with Russia despite the country's increasingly bellicose stance against NATO's missile defense plans, according to French air force Gen. Stéphane Abrial, commander of NATO Allied Command Transformation. "The hope is that we will succeed to improve things in the military domain that will contribute to building the trust needed to address more difficult political issues," said Abrial during a press roundtable in Washington D.C., on May 8. "We both, very frankly . . . recognize our differences and our different interpretation on many topics, but at the same time, both sides recognize the importance of continuing our military-to-military cooperation," he explained. Despite threatening language from Russian officials, the Russian military continues to work with NATO, even participating in a simulated missile-defense exercise earlier this year. "We needed the exercise and it did happen; it was not easy . . . but it did happen," said Abrial.  "It's a small step, but it's an important step. This is why I think that my optimism is not too exaggerated," he concluded.