Time to Diminish Expectations

Remember those halcyon days – like last Thursday – back when lots of people thought that the United States and Russia were on the brink of diplomatic breakthrough? The Obama administration appeared perfectly willing to ditch the Polish and Czech missile proposal for a joint system located in Russia, while the Russians opened up their territory for more supply shipments to the conflict in Afghanistan, and some analysts were even speculating that Russia was giving up its quest for superpower status in favor of pragmatic agreements and cooperation.

Well it seems like that’s all gone now, and or at least Obama’s advisers were informed that there would be no significant deal reached on a START-1 replacement during this visit. Whatever happened, the talk just turned very sour in the final hours before the president’s arrival to Moscow. This is probably old news for most readers, but here are the quotes which have set the tone for a disappointing summit coming up this next week. From the Financial Times:

In a television interview before his meetings with Mr Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, Mr Obama said: “It’s important that even as we move forward with President Med­ved­ev, Putin understands that the old cold-war app­roach to US-Russian relations is outdated, that it’s time to move forward in a different direction.

“I think Medvedev understands that; I think Putin has one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new.”

Mr Putin hit back, saying it was the US that was stuck in the cold war, having failed to fulfil promises to repeal the Jackson-Vannick amendment, trade legislation linked to the emigration of Soviet Jews.”We cannot stand with our legs apart,” he said. “We are standing firmly on our feet and we always look to the future.” But Mr Putin added he was looking forward to meeting Mr Obama, not wishing to let the odd insult spoil the summit.