Russian Re-Set: Ms. Clinton's 'Brilliant Stroke'?
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been making the rounds of TV interviewers, promoting her new book, Hard Choices. The book covers her four years as America’s top diplomat. She knew she would face questions -- few of them really hard -- about her role in the Benghazi debacle.
Had it not been for that loss of an American diplomatic outpost -- when Madam Secretary was responsible for 70,000 employees of the State Department -- all attention might have focused on her astonishing comments this week to BBC interviewer, Jeremy Paxman. (See video at 4:55)
The British journalist asks if she is “embarrassed” to have presided over the 2009 “Re-set” of U.S. relations with Russia. Not at all, Hillary Clinton replies with confidence. I thought it was “a brilliant stroke.” She goes on to say that we were able to take advantage of the Interregnum in Russia to make a number of agreements advantageous to the U.S.
But then, alas, she sighs, Putin came back into office as Russia’s president. She seems wistfully to recall those happy days when we could deal with Dmitri Medvedev.
Good grief. She means it! She actually believes there was a time in the past fourteen years when Vladimir Putin was not in charge in Moscow, that as in Camelot, there was one brief shining moment when we had someone in the Kremlin with whom -- in Mrs. Thatcher’s famous phrase -- we could do business.
Mrs. Clinton is not alone. President Obama has made a point of noting his good working relationship with Dmitri Medvedev but then disparaging Vladimir Putin. Our mature president dismissed Putin as behaving like that teenager in the back of the high school classroom, slouching like a “bored kid” who likes to get attention.
The Russian Re-set was proclaimed by Hillary Clinton in one of her first acts as U.S. secretary of state. She journeyed to Geneva in March, 2009, to present the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, with a big red “Re-set” button.
The only problem was her subordinates at Foggy Bottom had mistranslated the English word “Re-set” into Russian as “Overcharge,” an embarrassing fact that Lavrov was quick to point out.
Also, those advising our secretary of state were apparently unaware that Russians use the Cyrillic alphabet in printing Russian words. Our State Department’s Russian desk must have missed that lesson their first week on the job.
As Canada’s CBC teaches us in this valuable documentary, Vladimir Putin was trained in the old KGB, when the able but dangerous Yuri Andropov was its head. Putin has had virtually no other employment aside from the KGB. That’s why he is called in Russian, a kahgaybeest.
Under Putin, Felix Dzerzhinsky is honored once again. Liberating crowds of Russians had torn down “Iron Feliks” from the front of the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow in 1991.
It seemed democracy had at last triumphed in Russia.
But in 2005, a statue of Lenin’s executioner was placed discreetly inside the headquarters of Russia’s Interior Ministry. What else do we need to know?
The one Russian word retained in the transition from the KGB to the FSB is безопа́сности (byezopasnosti.) “Security” translates literally as “without danger.” The duty of the FSB is to eliminate dangers. That would include any danger to Putin’s rule. Vladimir Putin has been in charge of Russia -- all of Russia -- since New Year’s Eve, 1999. It was then that the aging and ill Boris Yeltsin was quietly shoved out the door of the Kremlin. There has never been a minute since that night when Putin was not the Vozhd -- the Boss. For this administration to think there was ever anyone else ruling Russia shows an utter lack of comprehension of this basic reality. No wonder their foreign policy is collapsing. That Hillary Clinton could consider her disastrous failure in the Russian Re-set as “a brilliant stroke” is not surprising. George Stephanopoulos told us years ago: The Clintons have no shame and that’s a huge advantage in politics. Perhaps so, but it’s a huge risk for the United States to base foreign policy on such obviously faulty premises. Here’s a new red button for the Obama administration. They can put it up in the White House and State Department as an easy reminder:
Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison are senior fellows at the Family Research Council, in Washington, D.C.