Some of these views are more justifiable than others. But the contours were clear: US-Russia relations were in a rut.

That’s why President Obama has taken a different approach than his predecessor. In the words of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, relations with the U.S. have become ‘more constructive, tending more to foster the search for some kind of generally acceptable solutions.’

Early in the administration, the Obama team was able to convince the Kyrgyz Republic (and Russia) to keep a strategic military base. They have also reworked an anti-missile defense system in Central Europe that should be more palatable to all concerned.

The rhetoric concerning Georgia, Ukraine, and NATO membership has also been toned down. Rather than neo-Cold War banter, the Obama Administration has adopted a near-term practical approach of using other means to strengthen ties with Eurasia.

And we shouldn’t forget that what’s not happening deserves some attention. President Medvedev is no longer threatening to station missiles in Kaliningrad. For now, the Russian military has stopped menacing maneuvers at sea and in the air over Europe.

Of course, Russia hasn’t renounced its penchant for geopolitical gamesmanship. But this Administration realized something early on: a normal relationship with Russia is necessary. We won’t always see eye-to-eye, but it is important to build a foundation so that when prickly things pop up – and they will – we have a foundation to fall back on, not an abyss to fall in to.