Feature

Obama’s Russia challenge

Is Medvedev giving Obama his first foreign crisis?

“Perhaps not even Joe Biden expected to be so right so soon,” said The Economist online. Mere hours after his election, Barack Obama got his first foreign test, when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev “decided against the traditional congratulatory phone call” and instead announced that he will “stick a few missile regiments” near Poland, in Kaliningrad, to counter perceived threats from a U.S. missile-defense shield.

It isn’t surprising that Medvedev “and his master, Vladimir Putin, would be the first to try intimidating the president-elect,” said The Washington Post in an editorial, but this test isn’t a particularly tough one. Putin wants to “bluff” Obama into abandoning the missile shield, to show Russian might against a “weakening America,” and Obama should just ignore his “crude threat.”

Medvedev actually seemed to be talking more to the outgoing administration, said Irina Filatova in Britain’s The Guardian, but it was a tone-deaf way to welcome the new one. By painting the U.S. as the world’s “main baddy,” he is taking anti-Americanism too far for Russia’s own good. U.S.-Russian relations need to thaw, but it’s not all up to Obama.

“Unless there is a new effort by Moscow, the ball is now in Obama’s court,” said Yuri Mamchur in Russia Blog. But the truth is that, with their financial meltdowns, “neither of the two countries needs (or can afford) a new missile system in Europe.”

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