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As NATO leaders meet, how will they deal with Russia?

Some advocate inviting Russia to join. Russian President Medvedev wants a new security architecture that includes his country.

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As NATO leaders gather in Strasbourg to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the soon-to-be 28-member organization, the elephant not in the room – but very much on their minds – will be Russia, the Eurasian giant which, in its previous incarnation as the USSR, was the Western alliance's original raison d'être.

Some NATO members wonder why, after most of the former Soviet Union's allies have joined, Russia still remains stubbornly outside the group's tent. But while the lineup at NATO's front door is long and includes some former Soviet republics, Russia isn't an applicant. Nor is an invitation from NATO likely to land in the Kremlin anytime soon.

Still, a new conversation about the problem of Russia's absence appears to be in the offing. Moscow's angry objections to NATO's march to Russia's borders has become one of Europe's biggest diplomatic problems in recent years, while a great many other pressing security issues – from Afghanistan to Kosovo – might be handled much more smoothly if Moscow were a partner rather than an embittered outsider.

"We need Russia for the resolution of European and global problems," Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told journalists earlier this week. "That is why I think it would be good for Russia to join NATO," if it can meet membership requirements, he added.


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