When Hillary Clinton attended her first important White House meeting on Russia in February 2009, the new secretary of state insisted that she needed to play a leading part in President Barack Obama’s attempt to «reset» U.S. relations with Moscow.
That position is indicative of how she’d start coping with Moscow if she’s elected U.S. president on Nov. 8, aides to both Clinton and Obama told Reuters.
Coping with Putin, who’s contracting his muscle that is geopolitical to cyberspace to Syria from Ukraine, will be among Clinton’s largest foreign policy challenges — one made more daunting by the private bad blood between them.
Jake Sullivan, now senior Clinton campaign adviser and a former top State Department aide, said Clinton could contemplate the transport of fatal arms to Ukraine government forces and the development of no-fly or safe zones in Syria. Both ideas have been rejected by Obama.
In accordance with former Clinton advisors and present, she could contemplate other policy proceeds such as more powerful sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and doing more to Russia’s neighbors that are wean off reliance on Moscow’s energy supplies.
Russia is watching.
«Many here believe that she’d be tougher on Russia than Obama,» he said.
Clinton’s first fence mending attempt in March 2009 wasn’t so much a display of strength than of diplomatic clumsiness. She given Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a red button that was assumed to have the word «reset» on it. Rather, it was tagged with the Russian word meaning «overcharged.»
Clinton’s doubt of Putin deepened, reflected by his growing list of grievances against her.
By the time she prepared to leave the State Department in early 2013, former officials said, at least two confidential memos were written by her to Obama encouraging a more hardnosed strategy. At some time, many in the inner circle of the president are not convinced its course had run, they said.
Since Clinton’s departure, Putin has reasserted Russia on the world stage, intervening in Syria’s civil war and capturing Ukraine’s Crimea area.
«NOT AS IF SHE WENT GRUMPILY»
«No one should pretend this wasn’t an Obama-driven policy,» said Philip Gordon, Clinton’s top Europe advisor at the State Department. She believed it’d sense.»
His report was backed up by two other officials.
The first fruits of the reset were swearing.
Putin had — briefly, it turned out — stepped down with the younger, reform minded Dmitry Medvedev in his area.
Obama and Medvedev signed a new tactical nuclear arms control pact, joined forces to sanction Iran because of its nuclear program and consented to let U.S. troops and gear passage Russia to support an American military «upsurge» in Afghanistan.
But after little more than two years, the «reset» ran from steam.
A DECADE OF BROADSIDES
Clinton and Putin met in March 2010 at his residence outside Moscow. She got him to back more demanding U.N. sanctions on Iran, according to two individuals with knowledge of the session.
In front of the TV cameras, nevertheless, Putin railed against U.S. trade and economic policies as Clinton saw.
Putin and Clinton happen to be trading broadsides for almost a decade.
The Russian leader «At the very least, a head of state should have a head.»
An U.S. official who was involved in Russia policymaking said Clinton occasionally picked her words ill, inflaming Russian animosity over its perceived post-Cold War humiliation, a nationalist striving that Putin has long used to his advantage.
«She played into that,» said the official, who requested anonymity.
The most serious rift of Clinton’s tenure happened as crowds filled the streets of Russian cities protesting parliamentary elections, in late 2011.
Accused her of attempting to foment a fresh Russian revolution. A steady glide in total relationships and in contacts between the Russian leaders and Clinton followed.
«Secretary Clinton’s perspectives on Russia were consistently a little harder-edged than President Obama’s,» said John Beyrle, Obama’s first ambassador to Moscow. That partly represented a «splitting up of duties,» he said. Obama and Medvedev joined forces; Clinton grappled with Putin and Lavrov.
Some Russia watchers say Clinton’s record was mixed.
«The reset was the correct strategy,» said Thomas Graham, former Russia advisor under Bush’s Republican government.