Amitai Etzioni proposes a NATO-Russia grand bargain:
NATO should offer to stop the eastward expansion of NATO, say, for the next five years or some such period, and hold off on developing the missile defense shield for the same period — in exchange for concessions from Russia that we care about deeply. One is support for whatever measures we must take against the military nuclear program of Iran (from which the Russians benefit financially but otherwise are quite uneasy about), and another is agreement to take major steps to reduce the number of tactical nuclear weapons.
It’s an interesting idea that I assume Etzioni must know is dead on arrival here in the U.S. In order to entice the Russians, the halt of eastward NATO expansion and missile defense development would likely have to be more than a temporary delay, but there would be a bipartisan uproar over any suggestion of halting NATO expansion for any period of time to please Russia. Promising a five-year delay isn’t the same as a promise to stop expanding the alliance into former Soviet space, and Moscow has been burned on the issue of NATO expansion enough in the last twenty years to be wary of any new promises related to it. The real and perceived security benefits from what the U.S. and NATO would receive in exchange far exceed anything that they would be giving up, but here and in some parts of Europe the deal would inevitably be portrayed as a capitulation. This would be a dishonest portrayal of the terms of the deal, but this would hardly be the first agreement subject to frequent misrepresentation. We need only recall the ginned-up controversies over missile defense and the arms reduction treaty that we have seen during the last three years to appreciate how politically difficult and risky it would be for any administration to pursue this sort of deal.