The Corner

Hillary Clinton, Wrong Again

Asked in a June BBC interview whether she wasn’t embarrassed about the “Russia reset,” She had this to say:

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.

That is really a remarkably silly answer, and very illuminating of Hillary’s flaws.

First of all, it’s not good form to describe your own policy initiative as “brilliant,” even if you know for a fact it’s true because people always say so at your cocktail parties.

Second, everything she 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. 

And it is also inaccurate to say that Russia’s invasion of Georgia “torpedoed relations between the United States and Russia.” It caused a major problem, to be sure, but 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. 

So in sum, the Russian reset added little or nothing to Bush’s accomplishments on the Russian front. That basically makes Hillary’s answer to the BBC completely wrong. And by the way, that’s true of a lot of things Hillary says, which is why she always has to spend so much time explaining her previous statements.

Mario Loyola — Mr. Loyola is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and director of the Environmental Finance and Risk Management program of Florida International University.


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