LEADING ARTICLE The two powers have more in common than recent rhetoric suggests
Barack Obama has set off for Moscow for two days of talks with the Kremlin that could be a last chance to put American-Russia relations on a new, productive footing. The Russian visit - President Obama's first - follows years of escalating tension during the Bush years over, among other issues, the Caucasus, Nato expansion, Kosovo and Iran. Both sides have increasingly resorted to unilateral moves aimed at marking out territory as "no-go" areas for the other side.
Hence Russia's invasion of Georgia last August, ostensibly mounted in defence of Georgia's Ossetian minority but in reality intended to humiliate the pro-Western President of Georgia and scupper Tbilisi's ambitions to join Nato.
The US, meanwhile, continues to ponder possible offers of Nato membership for the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia - which would be a red rag to the Russian bull - and has stationed new missile defence transmitters in the former Warsaw pact countries of Poland and the Czech Republic.
Adding to Russia's anger, the US has humiliated Russia's Balkan ally, Serbia, by recognising the independence of breakaway Kosovo. Mr Obama, therefore, has his work cut out if wants to regain even a scintilla of goodwill and trust in the Kremlin, let alone "reset relations with Russia" - to repeat the optimistic phrase that he used in a recent interview with the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
To further complicate Mr Obama's mission, while his official host and interlocutor today is the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, real power in the Kremlin remains very much in the hands of the Prime Minister, …