On the US-Russian relationship

This comment was published by the Daily Mirror
Obama in Russia
7 July 2009

Any reduction of the nuclear arms stockpile is good news.
The agreement between American and Russian leaders makes the world a safer place even if thousands of warheads stay armed and powerful enough to destroy the world a dozen times over.
Barack Obama continues his pilgrimage to show a new America engaging with an old world. After the years of bluster and bullying from Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, America is saying it wants to be friends with all. But underneath the charm lies firmness.
Russia was once described by Winston Churchill as "a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, cloaked in mystery". Today, no one quite knows who is in charge. Is it the old KGB agent, Vladmir Putin, who was described by Obama as having "one foot in the past"? Or is it the boyish lawyer, Dimitri Medvedev, now Russia's president living in the Kremlin like the Tsars or Stalin of old while Prime Minister Putin wonders if his power base is shrinking? Obama has shown firmness in not giving way on Europe's need to defend itself against missile attacks from rogue states under jihadi Islamist control. The nuclear arms deal and access for American troops to Afghanistan show diplomacy can work.
But the slogan in Moscow remains: "Russia Up. America Down. Europe Out".
Russia has a long way to go before it becomes a normal, friendly European state that most can trust and many can like.