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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Historic Chance to Strengthen Relations

In international relations, as in life, opportunity often knocks once, and it tends not to stand around waiting for an answer. A historic opportunity has emerged for U.S.-Russian cooperation based on restored trust and confidence, made possible by positive gestures and rhetoric from both sides. Given the potential benefits of enhanced cooperation on issues ranging from nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament to addressing the global financial crisis, neither Moscow nor Washington can afford to let this opportunity pass unanswered.

The key to cooperation will be for both countries to emphasize shared interests over areas of disagreement, and both will need to take steps to rebuild trust and confidence. A bipartisan policy road map should include the following recommendations:

• Emphasize the importance of the NATO-Russia Council and invite Russia to participate fully in a collective security strategy, beginning with peace and stability for Afghanistan.
• Engage in discussions aimed at securing Russian cooperation to establish effective defenses against missile attacks for Europe while providing Russia with security assurances.
• Encourage Russia to take a leadership role in multilateral negotiations with Iran to stop uranium enrichment.
• Advance the U.S.-Russia dialogue on arms control and nonproliferation and work to extend or replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which could be followed by another stage of verified nuclear disarmament.
• Reiterate U.S. support for Russia’s World Trade Organization candidacy, appeal to Congress to repeal the Jackson-Vanik trade sanctions and encourage other member states to offer Russia a clear path to membership based on its commitment to the WTO charter.
• Expand the U.S.-Russia dialogue on energy and climate change to include seeking common ground on environmental concerns and new oil and gas pipelines to guarantee reliable energy supplies for the entire North Atlantic region.

This bipartisan road map provides neither a detailed policy prescription nor an exhaustive list of all possible high-level initiatives. What it does offer is a promising beginning.

As new leaders, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev have an opportunity to re-establish trust and work toward a genuine strategic partnership based on shared interests. This should be a top priority not only for Obama but also for Democrats and Republicans in Congress, whose support is necessary to normalize the U.S.-Russian trade relationship, ratify bilateral security agreements and appropriate funding for cooperative programs.

The issues dividing the United States and Russia are significant, but there is too much at stake to miss this opportunity for reconciliation.
 
Matthew Rojansky is executive director of the Partnership for a Secure America, a Washington-based nonprofit organization founded to help rebuild a bipartisan center in U.S. foreign policy.