Prolonged and vexing as the struggle was to enact health care reform, it has not prevented the Obama administration from seeking progress on other important fronts.
The proof will be evident Thursday, when the U.S. president and Dmitry Medvedev, his Russian counterpart, meet in Prague to sign a treaty significantly reducing both nations’ arsenals of nuclear warheads and the vehicles for their delivery.
By 2012, the treaty will cut the number of deployed strategic warheads from the present limit of 2,200 to 1,550 each, and the number of launchers by half, from 1,600 to 800.
Will that represent the definitive step toward eliminating the cloud of fear under which the peoples of both countries have lived for the past half-century?
By no means. The number of doomsday weapons on both sides will remain quite sufficient to turn vast areas of the planet into a radioactive wasteland.
What it will do is testify to an understanding that cooperation, and an element of trust, between the two most powerful — and thus potentially most dangerous — nations is essential to preventing such a catastrophe.
And it will give reason to hope that other incremental progress may be possible toward the eventual goal of a world purged of that nightmare prospect.
When the Soviet communist regime finally collapsed in August 1991, there was no knowing what sort of leadership might emerge. The rise to power by Vladimir Putin, former KGB operative, was not encouraging. And the U.S. and Russia remain at odds on a range of social and geopolitical issues.
But with Medvedev as Putin's nominal successor, the tenor of relations has taken on a new civility.
There are suggestions now that some form of U.S.-Russian partnership may be feasible in the delicate area of European missile defense.
And the Russian president has said that Moscow could be open to joining the U.S. and major European powers in sanctions aimed at halting Iran's effort to achieve a nuclear weapons capability if lesser measures prove ineffective.
In all of this, there is cause for guarded optimism on the part of Americans and Russians who have a sensible appreciation of our countries' common interests.
For the nut cases of the U.S. far right — the hate-spewers and spitters and brick-throwers and those whose dearest hope is that our nation's elected leadership in Washington will fail — nothing that reflects credit on President Barack Obama or his administration is in any way welcome.
One may fully expect that they will now erupt in a full-throated chorus, braying that this agreement to be signed Thursday will amount to nothing less than a reckless disarmament, leaving America defenseless.
They could call that patriotism, if they like.
The better description would be malicious lunacy.