Repairing relations with Russia should be one of NATO's top priorities in the next five years. Given the centrality of NATO to American security, the US and Russia will not be able to make progress in their bilateral relationship as long as NATO's capabilities, missions, and role in European security remain sources of bitter disagreement and mistrust.
Fortunately, Russia's transition to a new political leadership creates the potential for a substantial improvement in NATO-Russia relations. On May 7th, Vladimir Putin will be inaugurated as President, and there is good reason to believe that we will soon thereafter begin to see the outlines of his political and economic priorities. If those priorities favor a newly formulated commitment to international economic integration and international investment, they suggest a corollary commitment by this Russian leadership once again to try to make practical progress in political and security relations with the West. Russian ratification of START II was one step in this process: finding a positive and productive relationship with NATO is the obvious next step.
In order to have any hope for making this progress, we need to understand what NATO is and what it does well, which explains why its members and so many other countries in Europe view it positively. Russia also needs to realistically face how it must shift its approach to NATO, in light of what the alliance really is and does.