Before taking office as president, Barack Obama promised to “reset” the United States’ relationship with Russia in order to cooperate more fully with the Russians. Two months after Obama’s inauguration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her Russian equivalent, Sergei Lavrov, a big red mock “reset” button labeled “reset” in English. The State Department also put on the button what it thought was the Russian translation of “reset.”
But the translation was wrong. And not only was the translation wrong, the assumption that the Russians were truly interested in cooperating with America was even more mistaken.
Earlier this month the Russians yanked themselves out of the Nunn-Lugar program, a twenty-year-old program with America to safeguard Russia’s thousands of nuclear and chemical weapons. Both sides had agreed that there was tremendous danger in letting the weapons fall into the wrong hands. The U.S. had given roughly $5 billion over the years to strengthen reliable transport, storage, and destruction of weapons.
That era is over now; in September the Russians closed the U.S. Agency for International Development, which fed Russians but also supported local vote monitors who could watch the Russian elections closely. And just this week a new law promulgated by Putin’s Russia forced the shut-down of Radio Europe/Radio Liberty.
As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gleefully chortled last week:
If we talk about the “reset”, it is clear that, using computer terminology, it cannot last forever. Otherwise it would not be a “reset” but a program failure.
Program failure. That sums up Barack Obama’s entire feckless and weak foreign policy.