DAVID GREENE, Host:
So relations in Pakistan have been a challenge for the Obama administration. Relations with another country, Russia, got more complicated after an announcement over the weekend. Dmitri Medvedev is on the way out as Russia's president because Vladimir Putin wants his old job back. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.
MICHELE KELEMEN: U.S. officials have been careful not to weigh into domestic Russian politics this week, saying the U.S. priority is to keep improving relations with Moscow. The two countries have managed to come closer on issues like Iran and Afghanistan in recent years and have a new arms control treaty under their belt. So State Department spokesman Mark Toner says this reset in relations has been in everyone's interest.
MARK TONER: The question of who will be Russia's next president, that's a decision for the Russian people to determine. We on - for our part look forward to working with whoever is the next president, because we believe clearly that it's in the mutual interest of the United States and Russia and the world that we do work closely together.
KELEMEN: That response was normal and predictable, says David Kramer, a former State Department official who now runs the advocacy group Freedom House. Realistically, he says, the relationship is in for some changes. Kramer says President Obama invested heavily in his personal ties with President Dmitry Medvedev.
DAVID KRAMER: The tone and atmospherics were different under Medvedev. Medvedev and Obama did develop a rapport that I think will be almost impossible to replicate with Putin and Obama.
P: Now, the only thing about these burgers...
KELEMEN: In June of last year, Presidents Obama and Medvedev bonded over burgers at a restaurant in Virginia. A year earlier, when President Obama was setting off to Moscow, he told The Associated Press that he'd meet both President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin to make sure they hear the same message.
OBAMA: That the old Cold War approaches to U.S.-Russian relations is outdated, that it's time to move forward in a different direction. I think Medvedev understands that. I think Putin has one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new.
KELEMEN: Those are words President Obama will likely regret, says Kramer, now that it's clear to everyone that Medvedev was just a, quote, "seat warmer." And even without the musical chairs in the Kremlin, he says U.S.-Russian relations have been rough lately.
KRAMER: What we are seeing is that the reset reached its heights, say, last summer, and now is on a slow downward trajectory. And the issues of Russia's position opposing any sanctions on Syria, its support for the Palestinian efforts for recognition at the U.N., all of these things, I think, point to more challenging times.
KELEMEN: Differences over U.S. missile defense plans and Russia's aspirations to join the World Trade Organization may also get more complicated to manage, he says, especially working with Putin, who recently described the U.S. as a parasite and a threat. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.