The Pentagon has opened its doors to Russia's defense minister, the first high-level meeting of its kind in nearly six years and one that defense officials see as a milestone in improving U.S.-Russian relations.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his Kremlin counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov, (SUHR'-jih-kawf), pledged on Wednesday to increase cooperation. They said a closer relationship could involve new joint military programs and exercises.

Defense officials said they hoped the talks would help revive Washington's relations with Moscow, which hit a post-Cold War low point in 2008 when Russia sent its troops into Georgia in support of two breakaway regions.

No Russian defense minister has been to the Pentagon since January 2005.