China and Russia proclaimed an end Saturday to any lingering hostility between the two longtime Communist giants, pledging they would no longer target nuclear missiles or use force against each other.
The pomp-filled signing ceremony at the Kremlin - a far cry from the bristling animosity between the two nations during much of the Cold War - came as the last Russian troops in the West returned home from Germany.Marching bands escorted several thousand green-uniformed soldiers down Tverskaya Street, the city's most prominent boulevard, where victorious Soviet troops marched after coming home from World War II.
The simultaneous events marked a symbolic turning of the page, nearly three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russia's greatest threats are now posed not by rivals, but by its own economic predicament and the proliferation of organized crime. Trade, not troops, brings strength, and China has become Russia's second-biggest trading partner after Germany.
Several hundred Communists showed their anger at the wrenching change, waving red Soviet flags and portraits of Stalin and chanting "Shame!" as the soldiers arrived from Berlin by train. Ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky called the withdrawal lamentable.
The Kremlin ceremony culminated a warming in relations between Russia and China that began in the early 1980s and was made official in 1989 when relations were normalized by then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
The joint statement on missiles is similar to one Russia signed earlier this year with the United States and Britain. It was signed at the end of talks between Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
The two nations settled a longstanding disagreement over a tiny part of their border, which prompted armed clashes in 1969. They also agreed to slash the number of troops stationed on both sides of the 2,725-mile boundary.
"Autumn is the season of harvest, and in Moscow we have reaped a good crop," Jiang said at the St. Catherine Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace.
He is the first Chinese leader to visit Moscow since Mao Tse-tung in 1957, shortly before the two nations ended their Communist alliance. Jiang visited the Soviet Union in 1991 as Communist Party chief.
Yeltsin, who visited China in December 1992 in the first Russia-China summit, was similarly upbeat: "Our views coincided on all the issues touched upon in our talks."
The issue of two islands along the eastern section of the border remained unresolved.
The two presidents and their foreign ministers also signed a protocol on trade and economic cooperation and an agreement on customs cooperation, reflecting the rapid growth of trade between them.
"It's not so long since our countries looked at each other across barbed wire," Grigory Logvinov, a China specialist in Russia's Foreign Ministry, was quoted as saying by The Moscow Times on Saturday. "Now we have achieved something new, we have reached a new level of friendship."
Trade between Russia and China has almost doubled in the past three years, to last year's peak of $7.7 billion, according to Chinese statistics. The Kremlin, which halted arms sales to China in the 1960s, now sells more than a billion dollars' worth of weapons to Beijing annually.
Sharp political differences remain.
Chinese leaders not long ago denounced Yeltsin and Gorbachev as traitors to communism, and regard Russia's political reforms as badly mistaken. In turn, Russia's democratic politicians laud the successes of China's slower-paced economic reforms but oppose Beijing's rule as repressive.