The bush administration had hoped that they were close to a deal with Russia on missile defences. The so-called "2+2" talks, with US and Russian defence and foreign ministers negotiating a text had been pushing forward.
The US had let it be known that the package included confidence building measures such as reciprocal monitoring visits at each other's missile defence sites; linking US and Russian systems; not switching the US system in Europe on until iran tested a strategic missile, and some other matters.
The Russians had expressed interest, while questioning why the US would compare their tactical missile defence sites to the global US system. Now, however, the deal appears pretty far away. White House briefer Dana Perrino said yesterday that:
We're going to have to do more work after Sochi. No one has said that everything would be finalized and everyone would be satisfied with all the preparations, because we haven't even started to work on the technical aspects of the system. We're still on the early part of these discussions; they've just actually recently started in diplomatic time frame.
This doesn't actually contradict things that the administration was saying only a few days ago, but the tone is much more downbeat. Does this mean there are real problems, or that they are managing expectations to allow for a "successful" Summit, at least in the spin stakes. After all, they managed to take a NATO communique that said NATO would make a decision about missile defence after 2009 and persuade the press that it said NATO has already endorsed missile defences.