Media are distorting Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state by fixating on her attempt to reset the U.S. relationship with Russian in order to make Russia's invasion of Crimea a political issue in the 2016 presidential election. But Clinton has long maintained that Russian President Vladimir Putin is untrustworthy and helped negotiate Russian cooperation on Iran sanctions and use of Russian airspace for the war in Afghanistan.
Media Falsely Frames Hillary Clinton's Tenure As Secretary Of State Around Russian “Reset”
Fox & Friends: Clinton One Of The Architects Of “Failed Russia Reset.” Fox News used an on air graphic to accuse Clinton of spearheading a “failed” reset policy.
[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/4/14]
Politico's Allen Calls Hillary Clinton “The Face Of The Reset.” Mike Allen, Politico's chief White House correspondent called Clinton “the face of the reset” during a March 4, 2014, appearance on MSBNC's Morning Joe:
WILLIE GEIST: You guys have a piece up there talking about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and a political angle to it, posing perhaps a problem for Hillary Clinton if she decides to run for president in 2016. Explain the connection there.
MIKE ALLEN: Willie, it was Senator Clinton, Secretary Clinton was the face of the reset. You guys will remember. We saw this on Morning Joe back on 2009 in her second month in office. She was in Moscow at one of her first trips and she presented the Russian foreign minister with an actual gift-wrapped red reset button. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 3/4/14]
AP's Julie Pace: “That Red Reset Button Moment We Are Going To Hear Over And Over.” Associated Press White House correspondent Julie Pace claimed that the “red reset button moment” would become associated with Hillary Clinton, during a March 4, 2014, appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe:
GEIST: Julie, this just shows, again, doesn't it, the long march, perhaps, to entering the race for Hillary Clinton? The longer this drags out, the more hits she is going to take. Whatever issue of the day comes up, it will be linked somehow to Hillary Clinton.
JULIE PACE: Absolutely, especially if it's something that happened on foreign policy when she was Secretary of State. I mean, that red reset button moment we are going to see played over over again. I actually am interested to hear from her on what she was thinking at that time and whether she thinks that that was the right policy given what we have seen now. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 3/4/14]
Clinton Has Had Longstanding Concern With Russia Beyond The “Reset”
In 2008 Election, Clinton Said Putin “Doesn't Have A Soul.” During the 2008 presidential campaign, Clinton said that Putin did not have a soul. Reuters reported:
“Bush really premised so much of our foreign policy on his personal relationships with leaders, and I just don't think that's the way a great country engages in diplomacy,” Clinton said to voters in Hampton, New Hampshire. The state holds the nation's first presidential nominating primary on Tuesday.
“This is the president that looked in the soul of Putin, and I could have told him, he was a KGB agent,” Clinton said. “By definition he doesn't have a soul. I mean, this is a waste of time, right? This is nonsense, but this is the world we're living in right now.” [Reuters, 1/6/08]
Clinton Condemned Russia For “Subverting Justice” With Suspected Vote Tampering. In 2011 Clinton called for an international investigation into Russia's election after international organizations raised concerns about vote tampering. A December 6, 2011, Reuters article reported:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested on Tuesday that Russia's elections were neither free nor fair, and Germany urged Moscow to make democratic improvements.
For a second day running, Clinton cited “serious concerns” about the Sunday election in which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's parliamentary majority was slashed. Observers said the vote was marred by ballot-stuffing and other irregularities.
“When authorities fail to prosecute those who attack people for exercising their rights or exposing abuses, they subvert justice and undermine the people's confidence in their governments,” Clinton said in a speech at the meeting of the 56-nation OSCE, Europe's biggest rights watchdog.
“As we have seen in many places, and most recently in the Duma elections in Russia, elections that are neither free nor fair have the same effect,” she added, in comments that went a step further than her criticism of the vote on Monday. [Reuters, 12/6/11]
Wash Post: Clinton Set “The Right Tone” By Challenging Russia Over Election. A December 10, 2011, Washington Post editorial praised Clinton for setting “the right tone with Russia” after she called into question that country's recent election. The Post noted:
This week, however, Ms. Clinton chose just the right moment to prioritize support for human rights over a “strategic” relationship. One day after Russia's parliamentary elections, which featured both massive rigging and a startling rebuff to Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, Ms. Clinton strongly sided with the democratic cause. Citing preliminary reports by international observers about ballot-box stuffing and other abuses, Ms. Clinton called for “a full investigation of all credible reports of electoral fraud and manipulation.” She concluded: “The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted.”
The unvarnished remarks infuriated Mr. Putin, who finds himself suddenly facing the most serious domestic opposition since he rose to power over a decade ago. As we predicted he would, the Kremlin strongman played a nationalist card, trying to portray Ms. Clinton's remarks as part of a Western plot against Russia. [The Washington Post, 12/10/11]
Clinton: The US And Russia Have Principled Differences On "A Lot Of Very Difficult Matters." In a 2012 interview with a public broadcasting station in the republic of Georgia, Clinton said the reset with Russia was important but acknowledged that there were still “principled differences” over “very difficult matters.” From Clinton's June 2012 comments:
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that the so-called reset was important, because the United States and Russia have a lot of work to do together. The START Treaty that continues the reduction of nuclear weapons is in both of our interests and the interest of the world and a peaceful world. Working together on Afghanistan has been very positive. Working against terrorism and drug trafficking - we wanted to work to find those areas where we could cooperate.
Now, at the same time, we still have differences, and those differences are principled differences as to where we stand on a lot of very difficult matters. But I think in today's world it's important that we not have relationships where you're either able to cooperate or you can't cooperate. Let's be practical and let's find areas where we can bridge our differences, let's work to try to narrow those differences, and let's stand our ground whenever and wherever we have to. And on democracy, on human rights, on the freedom of people to choose their own leaders and their own futures, we strongly support that, and we're going to continue to try to manage our relationship along those lines. [Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton, 6/6/12]
Clinton Warned Putin Was Trying To Re-Sovietize The Region. In 2012, Clinton warned that Putin would try to “re-Sovietize” the region that formerly constituted the Soviet Republic, including Eastern Europe and Central Asia:
Clinton told civil society advocates on the sidelines of an international human rights conference at Ireland's Dublin City University Tuesday Washington was trying to stop Russia from creating a new version of the Soviet Union under the guise of economic integration.
“There is a move to re-Sovietize the region,” she said. "It's not going to be called that. It's going to be called a Customs Union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that.
“But let's make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it,” she said hours before meeting with her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to discuss the escalating Syrian crisis. [UPI, 12/7/12]
Clinton Warned Of Putin Attempt To Consolidate Power In Ukraine. In February, Clinton warned “if there is an opportunity for [Putin] to consolidate the position of Russia in eastern Ukraine, he will look seriously at doing that.” From CNN:
Vladimir Putin will “look seriously” at consolidating Russia's position in eastern Ukraine if the opportunity presents itself, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
Speaking in Florida, the potential Democratic presidential candidate said she was still in contact with some of her former government colleagues on the issue.And she believes the United States needs to support a “unified Ukraine” with no division between the east and the west of that country.
Clinton said Russia's President is a man who “sits as the absolute authority now in Russia and it is quite reminiscent of the kind of authority exercised in the past by Russian leaders, by the czars and their successor Communist leaders.”
On Ukraine, she said Putin could consider making a move.
“I believe, and this is just my opinion, if there is an opportunity for him to consolidate the position of Russia in eastern Ukraine, he will look seriously at doing that,” she said. [CNN, 2/26/14]
“Reset” Moment Does Not Define Clinton's History Of Dealing With Russia As Secretary Of State
New York Times: Clinton Achieved Iran Sanctions Despite “Delicate Moment” In 2010 Negotiations With Russia. On March 18, 2010, the New York Times reported that Clinton had “clashed” with Russia's foreign minister Sergey V. Lavrov “over an announcement that Russia would complete a nuclear power plant in Iran this summer.” According to the Times, Clinton was then in the midst of a “delicate moment” as the administration “struggled to win support for tough new sanctions against Iran and to improve still tentative relations with Russia.” Two months later, the Times reported that the administration had succeeded in gaining Russian support for the planned sanctions against Tehran:
The Obama administration announced an agreement on Tuesday with other major powers, including Russia and China, to impose a fourth set of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, setting the stage for an intense tug of war with Tehran as it tries to avoid passage of the penalties by the full United Nations Security Council.
The announcement came just a day after Iranian leaders announced their own tentative deal, with Turkey and Brazil, to turn over about half of Iran's stockpile of nuclear fuel for a year, part of a frantic effort to blunt the American-led campaign for harsher sanctions.
“This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, describing the agreement as a “strong draft.” [The New York Times, 3/18/10, 5/18/10]
Washington Post: Iran Sanctions Deal One of “5 Victories In Foreign Policy.” A Washington Post roundup of key Obama administration victories in foreign policy highlighted Clinton's successful negotiations with Russia and China over the Iran sanctions and applauded Clinton's handling of the fallout of the deal:
The second success was the U.N. Security Council resolution on Iran. Yes, it was too mild, badly watered down by China and Russia. Yes, the administration oversold how much Russia acceded to American desires. But the administration did get a resolution, only a little later than planned, and passage kicked off additional sanctions by Europeans and others. Will this by itself stop Iran from getting a bomb? No. But it does increase the pressure on the Tehran regime, which may indirectly help those Iranians who dare to struggle for a new kind of government.
Nor did Turkey and Brazil's votes against the resolution, following their pro-Iranian diplomacy, do more than discredit their leaders in decent world opinion -- imagine voting no even as China and Russia vote yes. The idea that their actions heralded their emergence as world powers is off the mark. If anything, they diminished and slowed what had been their rise to global respectability. Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva looked silly and out of his depth. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan solidified Turkey's image as the lone NATO member that chooses Iran and Syria over its allies. Good work.
But the administration handled that well, too. A Jimmy Carter might have felt compelled to applaud Turkey and Brazil. An administration determined to avoid confrontation with Iran might even have swung behind their diplomatic efforts. Led by Hillary Clinton, this administration gave them the back of its hand and made clear that they were not ready to play in the big leagues. Going a step further, it has declared that Turkey's behavior is damaging its relationship with the United States and its NATO allies. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon warned last week that Turkish actions have placed its “orientation” in doubt and were making it “harder for the United States to support some of the things that Turkey would like to see us support.” That was exactly the right message. [The Washington Post, 6/29/10]
CNN: Russia Eased Transit Regulations To Allow Armored Vehicle Transit To Afghanistan. In November 2010, CNN reported that Russia had agreed to allow NATO to move armored vehicles through its borders:
Russia's top diplomat said Thursday the nation will permit NATO to move armored vehicles through Russia to Afghanistan, state-run Russian media said.
“The eased transit regulations have been extended to armored vehicles with anti-mine protection,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after discussions in Moscow, Russia, with Afghan foreign minister Zalmay Rasul, according to state-run RIA Novosti.
At the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, last week, Russia and the alliance agreed to “broadened transit arrangements through Russian territory” of “non-lethal” material. The cargo would be moved through Russia to and from Afghanistan.
“We underlined the importance of international efforts in support of the Afghan government and in promoting regional peace and stability. In that context, the revised arrangements aimed at further facilitating railway transit of non-lethal ISAF goods through Russian territory are of particular value,” the NATO-Russia Council Joint Statement said Saturday.
The agreement will help NATO's International Security Force break its dependency on Pakistani authorities to allow supplies and vehicles to get through. [CNN, 11/20/10]
Associated Press: Increased U.S. Cooperation With Russia Resulted In Air Transport Agreement. Reporting on Clinton's negotiations with Russia over the proposed sanctions against Iran, the Associated Press noted that there had been improvements in U.S.-Russia cooperation:
The senior official traveling with Clinton said that there had been some improvements in cooperation, including a recent agreement that allows U.S. military planes to transport lethal materiel [sic] over Russia to Afghanistan. [The Associated Press, 10/12/09]