When Obama said to a business audience in Moscow, "Along the way, you gave us a pretty good deal on Alaska. Thank you," was this intended to liven the discussion? Was it delivered to remind them Czar Alexander II, who received less than a penny per acre in gold for it, had shafted them? ... At least under 21st Century perception, it seem a really bad deal. Is this a novel method of referencing a long history of trade? Russians never quite swallowed that pill and Obama might have thought twice, or thrice, before raising this caustic historical Russian forget-me-not on Russian soil. Given Alaska's current importance as a source of natural resources, it should have been evident that such recollection would rub some salt on an old wound. It should also have been obvious that it would be received as a backhand smack at Putin's urgent quest for new productive oil and gas fields in Siberia, and more recently, in contested areas of the Arctic. It would serve little here to imagine in much detail how the MSM might have treated Bush, had he made such a gaffe.
Some of Putin's highest priorities are oil and gas, their control, and their prices. He will support any measures that can sustain oil prices above $65 per barrel so that he can continue to fund his expensive power base. America's wishes are for something less than $40 per barrel, rendering Putin's ears deaf to any such discussion on this topic. Putin also needs to be seen as the nation's strongman, and has been almost Hollywoodian in the shaping of that image. He must be seen as the defender of the motherland and he enjoys approval by a comfortable majority of his countrymen. While Obama's insecurity surfaces as arrogance, IMHO, Putin's insecurity effuses as "My ego will take no prisoners, and my superiority doesn't care what you think." Any slights to his ego can only result in automatic and deep setbacks to the pretense of cozy relations even though there is a long laundry list of expectations by each side.
The MSM has applauded Obama's appeal to Russia's youth that they should ignore past agenda (Putin), and take responsibility for a new 21st century agenda. Such communing with young Russians should help negotiations along astonishingly well with the country's boss. Still, the MSM considers this strangeness, "a solid foundation," for the future of the relationship. There is always something to be said for looking at a glass as being half full. There is also something to be said for realistic assessment, which provides a viable platform for effective strategic thinking. This U.S. representation in Moscow, IMHO, established absolutely no inroads that might provide launching pads for addressing the serious confrontational bargaining sessions that Putin's long-established, aggressive and firm belligerence might budge for.
Obama apologists have excused him with commentary that he was simply stating historical fact. Such perception is baffling. Putin has been around a while, perhaps when visiting him, Obama should have taken more care to recall that his title is that of Prime Minister. No one in Russia does anything of import that his iron fist does not pre-approve. This too is historical fact, but perhaps Obama was tired, and when he mentioned Stalin, well, Stalin is part of Russian history after all, is he not?