President Obama took some time Monday out of his busy schedule to shoot some hoops with 22 Russian kids who are in town to fulfill the cultural part of his "reset" in U.S.-Russia relations. The Russian youth spending 11 days in Washington as part of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission's Education, Culture, Sports, and Media Working Group, one of the many such working groups set up by the two sides last year.

Now, more than a half-century later, the Soviet Union has disintegrated, the Kennedy Center has recently featured dozens of Russia's top opera, ballet and musical superstars and, perhaps more to the point, Russia has been chosen to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Russian leaders are trying to use the current thaw in relations with the U.S. to enhance cooperation in space, pushing for joint exploration efforts extending past the life of the international space station.

Russia's ambassador to NATO has criticized the bloc's latest strategic concept, saying it contains mixed messages on Moscow. The diplomat says the West still can't decide whether Russia is an ally, a friend, or a threat.

Russian diplomacy has been on a roll in recent months, the revival of ties with Ukraine being the most dramatic manifestation. But a string of successes, major and minor, sung and unsung, has been notched up below that high point - in Poland, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Norway and Syria.

Closer Russo-Turkish relations and the latest indications that these relations may grow from economic cooperation into strategic partnership have caused concern among political circles in Armenia.

The Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, yesterday criticised the United States for not doing enough to foster peace in the Middle East, warning that the regional situation was "dangerous" and could slip out of control.

Lacking, however, is support from Washington in the form of a carefully thought-out and articulated U.S. public diplomacy policy toward Russia. With so much emphasis on public diplomacy toward the Arab world, crucial matters such as improving relations with Russia get too little attention. Needed is a coherent, cohesive strategy for Russia, endorsed by the White House and State Department, as the foundation on which American diplomats in Russia can build. This should include greater use of new media technologies, connecting with the Russian diaspora, developing partnerships between U.S.