From There are few projects that matter more to Russia than restoring its influence in the former Soviet republics, whose loss to many in Moscow is still as painful as a phantom limb. Competition over Georgia and Ukraine has brought relations between Moscow and Washington to a post-cold-war low, and the matter is bound to be central to the talks that begin on Monday between Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, and President Obama.

Russia’s ability to attract its neighbors to its side and keep them there is unimpressive. The Kremlin’s methods have been reactive and often bullying, combining incentives like cheap energy or cash disbursement with threats of trade sanctions and gas cutoffs.

The war in Georgia seems to have hurt Moscow in that regard. Rather than being cowed into obedience, as most Western observers feared, the former republics seem to have grown even more protective of their sovereignty. Moreover, the leaders themselves have thrived by playing Russia and the West and, in some cases, China off against one another, although that has not brought stability or prosperity to their countries.