by MONITOR
IF there is any consolation to be found in the global economic crisis it was perhaps to be detected in Vladimir Putin's speech which officially opened the World Economic Forum at Davos on Wednesday. “We are all in the same boat” said the Russian prime minister after identifying the crisis as a “perfect storm” in which “we can't afford being isolationist or economically selfish”.

But of equal importance was his specific welcome to the Obama administration - “we wish them well”. This recognition of a shared crisis has no doubt been brought about mainly by the fall in the Moscow stock market and in the Russian housing sector and by growing unemployment in many parts of the country; demand for oil and gas is falling. It would be over-optimistic to think that the hostility between Russia and the West that has developed in the past five years will be dissolved easily.

But the euphoria and arrogance in the West over a weakened Russia that existed after the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago has been replaced by a much more realistic view - helped somewhat by the stand-off last year over Georgia and Ukraine.

There is no reason at all why the leading nations of the West should not work with Russia on term of equality and common interests. It is yet another of the opportunities that Barack Obama needs to grasp and among the most important of them.