A Punch in the Face

She wrote it, not us. From Ellen Barry in the New York Times:

Talk about mixed messages. Russia’s leaders this week could not say enough good things about President Barack Obama. His statements on Afghanistan were “encouraging,” his arms control proposals were “a fresh signal,” and plans for talks with Iran were “encouraging signals.”

But the compliments came with the geopolitical equivalent of a punch in the nose.

On Tuesday, in Moscow to accept $2.15 billion in Russian aid, the president of Kyrgyzstan announced a decision to shut down the Manas air base, creating a formidable obstacle to Mr. Obama’s single biggest foreign policy aim, prosecuting the war in Afghanistan. (…)

A single, raw issue — American influence in post-Soviet space — underlies the raft of policy disputes between the two capitals, said Angela Stent, who directs Russian studies at Georgetown University. Resolving it, she said, “may be impossible to do, but it has to be tried.”

“How much does Russia really want the relationship to change?” she said. “That’s still an open question.”