On the diplomatic front, a fortnight which began with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov’s high-profile visit to the United States also included talks between top Russian officials and leaders from two of Russia’s leading Asian partners–Japan and India. The three sets of meetings, which came on the eve of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration ceremony, continued the new Russian administration’s effort to put its own stamp on the country’s foreign policy agenda. That old problems continue to shape Russia’s relations with other key international players was also evident in all three sets of meetings, however. Although Ivanov’s visit to the U.S. may have improved the atmospherics in relations between the two countries, for example, there was no evidence that the talks in Washington had resolved long-standing differences on several important issues.
Russian-Japanese relations, likewise, continued to be hamstrung by Tokyo’s and Moscow’s inability to resolve the Kuril Islands territorial dispute. Russia and India, meanwhile, used bilateral talks in New Delhi to emphasize once again the two countries’ close geopolitical partnership. But the decision to put off an already long-delayed Indian-Russian summit meeting until October suggested that, under the surface, relations between the two countries might not be as problem-free as their rhetoric would suggest. Indeed, the three sets of talks may have been most noteworthy not so much for what they accomplished in their own right but for what they pointed to: high-profile summit meetings between the new Russian president and the leaders of the United States, Japan and India, all scheduled for later this year.