Politico: Russia Record Could Be 'Problem' for Hillary in 2016

Image: Politico: Russia Record Could Be 'Problem' for Hillary in 2016 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov press a red button symbolizing the intention to "reset" U.S.-Russian relations during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on March 6, 2009.

Tuesday, 04 Mar 2014 06:21 PM

By Joel Himelfarb

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could have some explaining to do about Russia policy if she runs for president in 2016, Politico reports.

Clinton was the symbol of the Obama Administration’s “reset” policy towards Moscow during President Obama’s first term – an approach focused on cultivating ties with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who succeeded Vladimir Putin in 2008.
Administration supporters claim the reset led to some positive achievements during Medvedev’s four years as president.

P.J. Crowley, who served as assistant secretary of state for public affairs under Clinton, said the reset was a success and facilitated cooperation on the Middle  East during Medvedev’s tenure. He said the reset “died” when Putin returned as president two years ago.

But critics say  that Putin, who served as prime minister of Russia from 2008 through 2012, never really stopped dominating the country, and that Clinton was wrong to think  there was a meaningful policy difference between him and Medvedev.

Ian Bremmer, an expert on political risk for the Eurasia Group called Russia “the single most substantive issue that she failed at from conception to implementation” as secretary of state.

“There was a real belief that you could work with Medvedev; Putin was the problem, but Medvedev was in charge,” Bremmer added. “That was a real misread.”

Sen. John McCain also faulted Clinton’s approach towards Moscow.

“Of course, she got it wrong,” McCain told the Daily Beast. “She believed that somehow there would be a reset with a guy who was a KGB colonel who always had ambitions to restore the Russian empire. That’s what this is all about.”

The reset policy began in March 2009 with an embarrassing faux pas, when Clinton presented Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red button she hoped would say “reset” in Russian. It actually said “overcharged.”

Clinton and Lavrov laughed about the error at the time. The video could prove useful, however, in a Republican television campaign if she runs for president.

But Lawrence Korb, a defense analyst with the Center for American Progress, said Clinton’s international experience provided her an advantage over potential Republican challengers who lacked that background.

Michael Goldfarb, a McCain foreign-policy adviser in 2008, countered that Clinton would be  “crazy” to run on Obama’s security record.

 “She was embarrassingly compliant on the reset; she can’t run from that,” said Goldfarb, who works with The Washington Free Beacon.

Yet Goldfarb predicted that Clinton would try to distance herself from Obama defense budget cuts and what he described as failed approaches to Iran and Syria.

‘Leaving Syria to the slaughter? Letting Iran go nuclear? … I think Hillary will want to show she’s made of sterner stuff,” he told Politico.

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