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."