The Russian reset: Hillary’s “brilliant stroke”

The worse Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainian separatists he sponsors behave, the worse it is for Hillary Clinton. After all, her most publicized and most significant action as Secretary of State was the infamous “Russian reset.”

So how does Hillary Clinton handle questions about the reset? The same way she handles most tough questions — badly and with plenty of false claims.

Here, via Mario Loyola, is Clinton’s answer last month to the question, posed by a BBC interviewer, of whether she is embarrassed about the Russia reset:

No I think it was a brilliant stroke which in retrospect appears even more so, because look at what we accomplished.

Between the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008, which of course torpedoed relations between United States and Russia for good reason, we come into office, and for that period of time, the interregnum if you will, Medvedev is president, Putin is prime minister, and there were jobs that we wanted to get done.

We wanted to get Russia on board with tough sanctions against Iran. We wanted to have a new START Treaty to limit nuclear weapons. We wanted to get their help in transiting across their huge country to get things we needed into Afghanistan. We got all that done.

Normally, would-be leaders leave it to others to describe their work as “a brilliant stroke.” But Clinton probably realizes that if she doesn’t say so herself, no one — except possibly her discredited ex-boss and her ambitious husband — will.

As for the claim that the reset enabled the U.S. to accomplish the various strategic objectives Clinton cites, Loyola demolishes it:

[E]verything Clinton describes as an Obama administration accomplishment made possible by the reset was already happening under Bush. Actually, in the last two years of the Bush administration, Russia voted in favor of no less than five U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions against Iran. The Obama administration has managed only one such resolution in the five years since.

The new START Treaty was going to happen under any administration that wanted it because START I was about to expire, and the Russians have an overwhelming interest in limiting U.S. nuclear weapons since they can’t afford an arms race; and even under those circumstances, we didn’t get a very good deal, certainly not nearly as good as the Moscow Treaty that was signed in 2002 under Bush.

And of course we had been transiting across Russia to get stuff into Afghanistan during the entire Bush administration.

Clinton isn’t even telling the truth when she claims that U.S. relations with Russia tanked because of the Russian invasion of Georgia, though they probably should have. Loyola reminds us that “for better or worse, the Bush administration made it clear from the start that the invasion would not affect broader matters of strategic common concern.”

In other words, Clinton’s response to the BBC is entirely wrong.

But if Clinton wants to persuade the American people that the Russia reset was a brilliant stroke, I’ll be happy to watch her try. The task is too big even for her husband, an infinitely superior snake oil salesman.

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