Between a continuation of engagement and a return to containment is a third path: realistic engagement. [Bush] needs to communicate to [Putin] that he believes in the possibility of Russia's integration into Europe and the Western community of states. But he also needs to clearly articulate the real terms of integration, terms that will require Russia to undergo serious political and economic changes. To help Russia integrate into the West, the American strategy must still be engagement, but with more realistic expectations about when, and with real standards for how this integration might occur.
President Bush thus must express his faith in Russia's ability to rejoin Europe as a democratic state with a market economy. Many within Russia do not believe the United States and the new administration in particular want to see Russia as part of the West. Bush should even be so bold as to present NATO membership for Russia as a real goal for the long term. Europe will only be whole and free, a goal Bush's father once articulated, if Russia is a member.
Most Russians still hope their country can become a full-fledged member of Europe. They do not want to become an autocratic ally of China seeking to confront the West. But a decade of disappointed expectations about democracy and markets, coupled with seemingly hostile acts from the West, has fueled doubts about Russia's place in the world. President Bush cannot eliminate this self-doubt overnight, but he can make clear American intentions toward Russia. By articulating a positive but realistic vision for Europe -- whole, free and including Russia -- he can help to reverse Russia's dangerous anti-Western drift.