Crisis management is the signature theme of Barack Obama’s presidency. In 2008 he had to tackle an economic storm that threatened the world. In 2014, he is facing a Russia intent on absorbing a neighbour.
Russian echoes could be clearly heard as he began his tour of Asia. He has assured a jittery Japan that its claims on the Senkaku Islands—eyed greedily by China—will be protected under a defence cooperation agreement. There are other items on his agenda but these have been overshadowed by security fears of Asian countries, fanned by an aggressive China.
After announcing an ambitious plan to be a pivot to Asia to counter China, the US buried it quietly. It was a mistake. Now that plan may have to be re-forged when it is preoccupied with Russia, making the task doubly difficult. It is another reminder that the leader of the Great Power pack cannot afford to harbour an isolationist outlook.