This interesting piece over at Foreign Policy argues that Barack Obama is making the same mistake as George Bush by investing in a supposedly preferential personal relationship with the president of Russia, and that the decision will come back to bite him. I could buy this line if Medvedev actually had enough power for betrayal – right now I think we are still only risking disappointment and underwhelming, while there is still benefit in showing that the best way to work with Washington and get real results is through the open-minded civilian policy community rather than the siloviki.
Bush’s focus on his personal relationship with the thuggish Putin was rightly scorned. But Bush was not the first American president to place a bet on personal ties between himself and a leader in Moscow. As the Soviet Union was coming to an end, George H. W. Bush clearly preferred doing business with its no-nonsense leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, to the disheveled, vodka-loving Boris Yeltsin. But Gorbachev’s agenda was about saving the Soviet Union, while Yeltsin, for all his flaws, wanted to bury that corpse and move Russia toward the West and democratic rule. And now, we’re hearing that Obama believes he has a different and promising relationship with Medvedev — one independent of Putin.