Blueprint for a New Russian-American Partnership

Russia hoped a phone call would help change the world.

On September 11, 2001, Russia's then president, Vladimir Putin, called U.S. President George W. Bush—making Putin the first international leader to speak with Bush after the attacks. The two leaders agreed that terrorism strengthened the need for closer U.S.-Russia relations. As Putin later declared, "In the name of Russia, I want to say to the American people: we are with you." (Story continued below...)

Extending that hand of friendship to the United States marked a potential turning point in Russia's relations with the West. We hoped that we could work closely with the United States and its new president to combat terrorism and in the process finally bury the last remnants of cold-war mistrust. We wanted to build a new foundation for worldwide stability through multilateral cooperation. And we felt President Bush reciprocated that desire.

Unfortunately, after September 11, Washington— apparently at the insistence of lower-level officials—chose to largely ignore international alliances. Instead, it sought to dominate the globe in countless ways, from abandoning the antiballistic-missile treaty to invading Iraq. Such unilateral behavior isolated the United States, made international relations hostage to divisive ideology and undermined America's credibility as a leader.

Soon a new U.S. president will take office. Once again, international crises loom. Once again, Russia sees the opportunity for nations to cooperate as equals in confronting these crises—and to respect the differences between us that will inevitably arise. This time, we hope the entire new U.S. administration will recognize the need for such cooperation—and the need to rebuild America's credibility.

One place to begin would be for Moscow and Washington to agree on a new strategic-arms-reduction treaty to replace the treaty that expires in 2009. We are studying a recent U.S. response to our proposal along these lines, and we hope the new president will move the talks forward.

But we can do more. President Dmitry Medvedev recently outlined a new vision for a Euro-Atlantic security system based on a legally binding pact that would abandon the old East-West divisions inherent in today's ossified institutions. We invite the new U.S. administration to join us in moving beyond the existing patchwork system to ensure stability from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

This new collective-security system would not discriminate against any state or organization. None would be isolated. The same rules of the game would apply to all. The system would guarantee everyone's safety by ensuring that no country could enhance its own security at the expense of another's. It would prohibit any military alliance or coalition from acting in a way that would weaken the overall structure. It would state that no single member or international organization would have the exclusive job of maintaining regional stability— including Russia. And it would establish basic parameters for cooperation on important areas such as fighting nuclear proliferation, terrorism and drug trafficking.

What of NATO? Conversations with my counterparts in Europe have made clear that many of them recognize NATO's limitations and understand the need for reform. Last summer's attack on South Ossetia by Georgia certainly showed that a NATO-centric security system cannot ensure regional peace. Moreover, efforts to expand NATO to Russia's borders despite our well-known concerns have underlined just how dated the NATO construct is. Proponents think that if the alliance expands to include Georgia and Ukraine, the West will have "gotten the better of Russia," while to exclude those nations would be to "capitulate" to Moscow. Either way, however, Russia would be left without assurances that NATO's capabilities won't someday be turned against it.

Russia would prefer to rebuild trust rather than allow it to further corrode. That's why, in July 2007, President Putin, in the spirit of strategic openness, proposed a truly collective effort at missile defense for Europe. The proposal remains on the table, and we hope the new administration considers it. If implemented, it would fundamentally change the Russia-U.S. strategic relationship, thus laying the foundation for a more stable future for all.

A generation ago, the Warsaw Pact provided a sense of security for the Soviet Union and its allies. But modern Russia does not pine for the Warsaw Pact. We recognize the world has changed, and security is now indivisible. That's why Moscow proposes this new, truly inclusive treaty for the whole Euro-Atlantic community.

As the world's leading power, the United States must also acknowledge the changes and recognize that it no longer calls all the shots—but that it can help us move beyond unipolarity and cold-war instincts.

All our security now depends on the wise decisions and cooperation of our leaders. The West has clear choices to make. We hope that this new opportunity will not be brushed aside. If we've learned anything from the past eight years, it's that no nation alone can bring security to the world. But if we try, we can do it together.