The prime issue will be getting a solid commitment from Russia on working with the US to deter Iran. Holding out an offer of improved trade relations -- perhaps allowing Russia into the WTO -- should sweeten the pot; but if no commitment is forthcoming, it will be clear that Russia is not interested in reciprocating the "reset" sought by the US.
It is also momentous that Obama will act as the chair of the Security Council. He must use this position to reassure allies Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as Georgia. He ought to meet separately with the representatives of each of these countries to give them assurances of America's support, especially in the near term; Georgia should also receive assurances that America will push for its inclusion in NATO. An attempt at soothing Sino-Indian tensions would also be most welcome.
Pittsburgh is a fine backdrop to press a free-market agenda, which ought to be Obama's key task while addressing the G-20:
Business Week and The Economist already have run stories about Pittsburgh, a riverfront city that once was home to a major domestic industry, steel, that collapsed. As a result, the Pittsburgh area lost tens of thousands of factory jobs and about, 50,000 people a year from the late 1970s to mid ‘80s. Sound familiar? But Pittsburgh has made it to a new chapter, and was among the places in America where the number of jobs actually increased in 2008.
Obama must stand firmly against further trade protectionism, and publicly step back from the protectionist programs he has pushed recently. He must also stand against the Sarkozy proposal to tax bank transactions and a wider European push to limit banker pay.
The honeymoon has worn off -- it's time for Obama to prove he can bring results on the international stage.