The country’s positive developments over the past 20 years are nothing short of a miracle – and they indeed offer the basis for putting Russian relations with NATO on a new footing. Due to the reasoned response of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and others, the cold war ended peacefully. Though still struggling to structure its economic institutions, Russia has reformed sufficiently to gain membership in the World Trade Organization and to support a rising middle class that is showing a taste for democratic action.
With the aid of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, Russia has deactivated more than 7,500 nuclear weapons and secured some 24 nuclear weapons sites. Even more important for future collaboration, the United States and Russia have dismantled nuclear weapons side by side, in transparent operations observers could never have dreamed of, even at Reykjavik, where Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev talked of nuclear weapons abolition.
No one should overlook Russia’s political corruption, its intimidation of journalists, and its belligerence toward countries on its borders. But if NATO could incorporate former enemies West Germany and Italy into the alliance after World War II, there is no reason that Russia should not join NATO now, two decades after the end of the cold war.