U.S. officials proposed a plan to promise Russia not to back further expansion of NATO in exchange for Moscow's cooperation on Syria, but ultimately abandoned the idea. That's according to the Wall Street Journal, in a piece reporting on "previously undisclosed calculations about the level of U.S. interest in the civil war in Syria."
In early 2012, White House and State Department officials asked themselves what the U.S. might be willing to do to wean Russia from its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Curtail missile defenses in Europe? Pare plans to enlarge the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?
Their conclusion: These initiatives weren't worth sacrificing for a deal on Syria, which was then lower on the foreign-policy priority list, say current and former officials who took part in the brainstorming exercise. Likewise, officials doubted such a gambit would work with a Russian leader whose motivations have confounded the U.S.
Of course things have changed a lot since then, and Russia has become a surprise player in the dramatic and rapidly developing international diplomatic efforts around Syria. (By the time I hit "save" on this post the situation will have no doubt changed again.)
Anyway, NATO expansion has more or less stalled, and of the four official "aspirant" states -- Bosnia, Georgia, Macedonia, Montenegro -- Russia really only has a problem with Georgia, seemingly having ceded Central Europe and the Balkans to NATO and the European Union. So, if I were a Georgian official, I would feel pretty good reading that story -- the U.S. apparently still finds the prospect of Georgian NATO membership worth something.