Presidential contender Hillary Clinton is trying to pad her foreign policy credentials by touting her tenure as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013.
In her official campaign launch speech on Saturday in New York, Clinton touted two achievements: the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and her adversarial relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I’ve stood up to adversaries like Putin and reinforced allies like Israel, and I was in the Situation Room on the day we got [Osama] bin Laden,” Clinton said.
While Clinton was one of the Obama administration’s stronger advocates for the raid that killed bin Laden, her record on Russia is a bit more complicated.
Clinton was a key player in Obama’s ‘Russia Reset’ policy, which aimed to cool tensions with Russia following its 2008 invasion of former Soviet satellite state Georgia.
“The story of the administration’s ‘reset’ policy toward Russia is a case study in how the heady idealism of Mr. Obama’s first term has given way to the disillusionment of his second,” The New York Times reported in September 2013.
During that first term, then-Secretary of State Clinton presided over a number of policy agreements with Russia. As the Week notes, Clinton helped negotiate an arms treaty between the two countries in 2012 and helped Russia gain entrance into the World Trade Organisation.
Clinton did have reservations about Putin, but they were far more private than her speech suggests.
She “supported the reset and even presented an ill-fated button to her Russian counterpart with the word ‘reset’ mistranslated into Russian,” The Times wrote, while privately having “a more jaundiced view of Mr. Putin.”
While warning of potential implications of Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, Clinton did not publically take a hard stance against the Russian leader before leaving office. She also defended the reset.
“The reset worked,” Clinton told CNN in August 2014. “It was an effort to try to obtain Russian cooperation on some key objectives while Medvedev was president.”
The previous month, however, Clinton had told CBS that the reset was wishful thinking in hindsight.
“I was among the most sceptical of Putin during the time that I was there, in part because I thought he had never given up on his vision of bringing ‘Mother Russia’ back to the forefront,” Clinton told CBS. “I think that what may have happened is that both the United States and Europe were really hoping for the best from Putin as a returned president, and I think we’ve been quickly, unfortunately, disabused of those hopes.”
The former Secretary of State is already taking heat from Republicans for her role in the reset. Earlier this week, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) took a swipe at Clinton, and said that the US has to take a harder line on Russia.
“I think there’s lots to do, and we’re beginning to realise the ‘reset button’ didn’t turn out so hot,” Bush said, according to CNN.
In a blistering Power Point critique of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record on Sunday, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney also slammed Obama’s Russia policy, and labelled Clinton the Secretary of Schlep for travelling around the world making “mistake after mistake.”