Logically, it’s understandable. One man is a former KGB agent who prefers autocratic power and seeks out publicity stunts that display his manliness. The other is a liberal U.S. politician whose frustration with those who won’t negotiate in good faith is palpable.
Their planned meeting in September — which Obama cancelled Wednesday — may have been doomed from the start; government secrets-leaker Edwin Snowden’s asylum-seeking in Moscow only made things worse.
If anything, it gave the White House and the Kremlin something other than missile defense and the Syrian civil war to argue about, and they have.
As Washington knows all-too well, foreign policy with Russia is a tricky beast. It can sour quickly, particularly as elections cycle through differing personalities and agendas. (Putin’s 2012 return to power in place of former President Dmitry Medvedev spelled the end to Western hopes of a true reset of U.S.-Russian relations.) History doesn’t help, either; lingering Cold War distrust on both sides often makes it difficult for either Russia or the United States to consider giving the benefit of the doubt.
It is a foreign policy relationship built on sandy ground.
We understand why there are those who believe there’s no reason for Obama to meet with Putin in Moscow if there’s no hint the talks would be fruitful — even though Obama will be in St. Petersburg for a global summit beforehand. “What’s the point?” naysayers will ask. It’s a valid question. Obama has made his decision.
Expect little, if anything, to change in this modern-day cold war until Putin is no longer the rule of law inside the Kremlin. He is returning U.S.-Russian relations to a darker time.