MOSCOW, July 5, 2009— -- President Barack Obama is scheduled to leave Washington tonight on a week-long trip that will be a test of his popularity and foreign policy approach as he tackles such difficult issues like arms control, missile defense and nuclear proliferation.
The president's first stop is Moscow, for the first full-fledged U.S.-Russia summit since 2002.
Obama has said he is hoping to "reset" relations between the United States and Russia, which had deteriorated under former President George W. Bush.
His task is a bit tricky, though, because he will face not just one Russian leader -- but two. A president and a prime minister.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev holds formal power, but the prime minister who hand-picked Medvedev to succeed him, former President Vladimir Putin, "still has a lot of sway in Russia" and needs an in-person reminder the Cold War is over, Obama said last week in an interview with The Associated Press.
"It looks like Vladimir Putin is still making the key decisions and running the show," Angela Stent of the Brookings Institute said.
"Obama would certainly make better use of his time spending more time with Mr. Putin," said Andrew Kuchins of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He suggested that Obama should try to understand what makes Putin tick: The two leaders will meet on Tuesday.
The leaders are meeting to discuss nuclear disarmament, the growing threats of North Korea and Iran.
They will also likely focus on Afghanistan. The United States wants guaranteed access to key supply routes that run through Russian territories as they ramp up the fight against the Taliban.