If I were NATO, in order to weaken Russian opposition to accession of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO and to reassure Russians there is no threat on NATO’s side to Russia, I would offer Russians to lodge an application for NATO membership that NATO would consider. The rationale behind this would be: 1) you don’t necessarily have to grant NATO membership to Russia afterwards, pointing out at outrageous human rights record in the country for instance 2) granting a MAP to Russia would be another way of bringing Russia into the western world’s orbit, 3) you would leave an opportunity for transformation of NATO into a non-military organisation of western and westernised countries, in fact, I think, fundamental reform of NATO is only matter of time, greatly depending of course, on what happens in Russia next.
Of course, if behind the scenes Russians say, an offer like this would insult them, then there is no way but to go on with granting MAPs for Ukraine and Georgia. Russians are pretty serious about revival of yet another edition of Russian empire, so this is all not a joke. If Russians manage to intimidate Ukraine into some kind of an allince (which is not highly likely I must say, bust still is a possibility) there you go with another evil empire to deal with. This is not to say that current Russia is a good empire, but there is certainly room for a downward decline.