Polls show that Russia is one of the nations whose citizens are least interested in Barack Obama, and pessimistic that his leadership will head toward positive changes in international relations. That means that if Obama were hoping to survive on the charm offensive, pitching an over-the-heads speech along the lines of the Cairo approach to the Muslim world, he will be disappointed, argues Paul Starobin on CNN.
Obama cannot call for democracy in Islamic societies while altogether ignoring its retreat in Russia. More generally, Americans, and American presidents, like to steer clear of the vocabulary of realpolitik, a language redolent of the Old Europe against which America decisively rebelled centuries ago.
The likelihood, then, is for stalemate in the contest between Obama’s campaign for the hearts of the Russians and their demand to be free of American meddling in their old imperial stomping grounds.
The Russian people are probably not going to come away with a pronounced negative view of Obama — he is acutely sensitive to cultural protocol wherever he goes and has yet to make a wrong step. But as for his global charm offensive — this is where it comes to a halt.