for Obama on His ( Useless) Trip to Russia
By Thomas P.M. Barnett
When President Obama lands in Moscowin a few days, expect plenty of official fanfare and plenty of cable-news coverage, but do not expect much in the way of important results. If anything, next week's summit will remind us how genuinely marginal Russia has become in global affairs, despite the recent surge in Western fears to the contrary (alas, it turns out that today we arenotall Georgians). Yes, the Obama administration has spoken expansively of hitting the "reset" button in this relationship, but, frankly, to what great end?
A survey of the global landscape does not indicate that America needsanyparticularly special relationship with Russia:
• Does Washington need Moscow's help on the wholeAfghanistan-Pakistanfront? It could certainly use Moscow's forbearance on basing and transit rights. So sorta, but not really.
• How about onIran? Sure, but China arguably has more pull there as Tehran's biggest oil and gas importer.
• Moving swiftly down the list... Russia still technically participates in the Six-Party Talks onNorth Korea. And if we have any more of those, I'm sure the Kremlin will send somebody. But only because they have to.
• Then there's the lingering issues onGeorgia(too many Russian troops left behind, renewed fighting?)...
• ...and the persistent carping about America's planned missile-defense system in eastern Europe...
• ...and the latest Gazprom-EU pricing spat (involving transit countryUkrainelast January)...
• ...and the usual intrigue over pipelines long planned but never built....
• Oh, and we need a new nuclear weapons reduction treaty to replace the one that'll run out in December.
Did I forget anything big? I mean, other than stuff we can't do anything about, like dead Russian journalists andVladimir Putin's firm beliefthat Russia can't survive without him?