Paranoid Russia Poses Big Test for Obama
President's trip to Moscow will be hard work, no fun
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2009 12:31 PM CDT
An unidentified woman pushes a symbolic Reset Button for US-Russian relations as she stands between life-size cardboard cutouts of Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama.   (AP Photo/ Mikhail Metzel)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – The last time Barack Obama went to Russia, he and another senator were detained by border guards for hours—and his upcoming trip won't be much fun either, say the editors of the Economist. Russia's economy is beholden to unstable oil and gas prices, the country's mortality rate is spiking, and the political system has devolved into "a pretense of democracy." Obama must placate Moscow's "kleptocratic courtiers and former spies" without coming off as a pushover.

The president's famous calm and his willingness to admit American mistakes will benefit him in Russia, "a country whose national pride is spiked with a sense of inferiority." Perhaps his biggest opportunity lies in arms control; Russia, the world's second nuclear power, could be a key ally in reining in Iran and stabilizing Pakistan. "But this is going to be an awkward relationship," the editors write, "one where the West’s expectations of success should be low."