THE most pressing business in the world today is arranging to keep US-Russian and US-Chinese relations calm and constructive.
Without such cooperation, it's hard to deal effectively with other major issues: nuclear proliferation, the global environment, major weapons sales, conflicts such as Bosnia, and UN reform, to list a few.
Washington's reconciliation with Germany and Japan after World War II made the great economic and trade surge in the post-war decades possible. Hopes were raised for similarly solid relations with Moscow and Beijing after the cold war.
Bill Clinton moved in the right direction by meeting this week with the leaders of Russia and China. He now ought to arrange a temporary cease-fire with his Republican opponents to have a serious (no cameras) talk about bipartisanship on this one overriding foreign policy issue. His own White House national security staff has given him a peg for such a move. Writing in this newspaper, two of those advisers suggested that a deal could be worked out with Moscow to create ''an alliance with the alliance.'' That means a Moscow alliance with NATO, allowing eventual membership for Eastern European nations.
Mr. Clinton and GOP leaders should make this proposal a starting point for a new consensus on US-Russian and US-Chinese relations. Clinton could make an overture to Messrs. Dole, Gingrich, and Lugar to talk soberly about carving out this one area for bipartisanship - even as they go at each other on other campaign issues. If the president doesn't make the overture, foreign-policy guru Dick Lugar might round up colleagues Dole and Gingrich to do so.
Getting Russia to agree to ''an alliance with the alliance'' is a logical step toward a world that works better on major problems.
Clinton and GOP leaders should seek a consensus on Russia and China.