By Sen. John F. Kerry
One year ago, the Obama administration launched an initiative to "reset" relations with Russia. As Russian President Dmitri Medvedev lands in Washington Tuesday, it's clear that the outreach - which carried significant diplomatic and political risk - is paying off.
The changes we've seen extend far beyond a transformed tone. Together, the United States and Russia have reached new agreements that have materially advanced our interests around the world.
The cornerstone of our new cooperation is a new strategic arms reduction treaty. The treaty significantly reduces the legal ceiling on both sides' deployed nuclear warheads and replaces the verification regime that expired with the old START treaty last December.
New START is essential to building the habits of cooperation we hope to expand to the many global problems that Washington and Moscow share. That's one reason former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger called Senate approval of START "obligatory."
I'm hopeful that once we have addressed their concerns, my colleagues will match the remarkable bipartisan support from the former secretaries of state and defense, generals and national security advisers - Democrats and Republicans - who testified in support of New START.
The second major achievement of our outreach has been Russia's increased cooperation in addressing Iran's nuclear ambitions. Until recently, Russia opposed further sanctions. But we worked to convince Russia that the threat was genuine.
Last month, Russian support was decisive in tipping the balance at the United Nations Security Council in favor of tough new sanctions. After that vote, Russia scrapped the sale of strategically crucial anti-aircraft missiles to Tehran.
The benefits don't end there. Better relations have allowed us to translate our shared interest in a stable Afghanistan into transit agreements that make crucial new supply routes available to America.
Since the agreement, some 10,000 railroad containers have traveled from Russia through Central Asia to Afghanistan's northern borders. In addition, 300 flights, with 35,000 personnel aboard, have flown over Russia to reach Afghanistan - reducing U.S. dependence on the often dangerous southern supply routes.
Critics mistakenly insist that any step repairing Russian relations is necessarily a step away from our European allies. In fact, their own "reset" with Russia has been helped by ours.
In April, Norway concluded 40 years of negotiations with Russia to sign an agreement on their maritime border. Poland's relationship with Russia has also improved, and Warsaw is working to secure visa-free travel and greater access to the European Union for Russian citizens.
Still, any outreach to Russia would be unsustainable unless it also factored in a frank acknowledgment of our disagreements. We continue to assert that Russia is in violation of Georgia's internationally recognized territorial integrity. And though Medvedev has made some encouraging statements about the need for reform inside Russia, we do not shy away from raising serious concerns about his government's attitude toward human rights and democratization.
This week's energy disagreement between Russia and Belarus reminds us that Moscow can use its vast natural resources to assert what it believes to be its national interest.
Going forward, our challenge will be to translate the progress we've made into ever-deeper cooperation. Trade between our nations is woefully underdeveloped. We should continue to help Russia's bid for World Trade Organization membership, which would help increase global confidence in Russia's markets and promote trade and investment.
A Russian firm's recent agreement to purchase up to 65 U.S.-made planes was positive news. Resolving the impasse preventing multimillion-dollar exports of U.S. poultry would be another positive step.
Last September, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov inaugurated the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, with 16 working groups covering culture to counterterrorism. This effort has only just begun, but it can provide a framework to initiate new projects, resolve emerging issues and generally keep relations on track.
This May, America and Russia marked the 65th anniversary of our shared victory over Nazi Germany with a spectacle that would have been unimaginable just one generation ago: U.S. service members in their dress blues marched beside their Russian counterparts in a parade in Red Square.
It was a surreal sight for this child of the Cold War - a measure of how far we've come. How far can our improved relations take us, given our enduring differences and historical baggage? We just don't know.
But survey the challenges of the next century - from the spread of nuclear weapons to energy security to Afghanistan - and it quickly becomes clear just how invaluable a Russian partner can be in solving them all.
There will be times, of course, when our ideals and interests pull us apart. Recent history is clear on that point.
But if we work together, we can achieve success: a partnership strong enough to seize our shared opportunities and resilient enough to withstand our differences.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.