A series of foreign policy clashes have revealed the Obama administration bitterly feuding with Russia–a country that just years ago the State Department prided itself on handling more diplomatically than George W. Bush.
The Obama administration’s relationship with Vladimir Putin’s government continues on a downward slide with the White House’s current military proposal against Syria. Following Russia’s granting of temporary asylum to American intel leaker Edward Snowden, President Barack Obama snubbed the Russian President last month. Additionally, President Obama cannot convince Putin of further nuclear arms reductions.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with BBC’s Kim Ghattas on March 19, 2010 about the relationship between the United States and Russia and told Ghattas the Obama administration has managed to gain more trust and partnership from Russian Putin’s government as opposed to the Bush administration. The interview happened one year after Clinton’s gaffe with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, when she presented a “reset” button with a word translated in Russian meaning to “overcharge” on the novelty item. Ghattas ended the interview, asking Clinton to give her thoughts about the foreign policy achievements of the Obama administration at that point.
QUESTION: I would just like to end with a question about foreign policy achievements of the Obama Administration so far, particularly when it comes to engagement. Iran hasn’t really engaged. Syria has almost personally insulted you. Burma hasn’t budged. China is not quite being as helpful as you would want. I know that it’s not exactly the same as Iran and Syria and other countries. But it’s not really going very well for the Obama Administration at this stage.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Kim, I couldn’t disagree more. On the one hand, you have to have strategic patience when you engage in diplomacy. I don’t think anyone expects countries to change overnight. It’s hard for individuals to change overnight.
But if you look at how far we have moved our relationship with Russia, it was at a very low level of trust and partnership when the – this Administration came in, and we are working together on many issues now. With respect to the Middle East, I think President Obama’s speech in Cairo is still resonating, and people who are in the Arab world, and the broader Islamic world, see the United States reaching out, looking for ways to find mutual interests to build on a better relationship and a better future. I think our work with China to establish a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship is going forward.
I mean there is something to remember here, and it’s not just from the vantage point of the United States. Countries, like people, have their own interests. I can’t come and tell you how to live your life. I can come and say, “Maybe together we can do some things,” but your core interests and my core interests are not likely to be ever completely the same. So there shouldn’t be any surprise in diplomatic engagement when you work with a country on A, B, and C, but they still have a different point of view on X, Y, and Z. But that doesn’t mean you stop working on A, B, and C.
I think one of the problems in the past administration was, “Well, if you aren’t with me, you’re against me.” That is much too simplistic a view of the complexity of the world in which we live. If we can make progress on any of these important matters together, we should pursue it, and we should continue to speak out about our differences and look for ways to narrow those, as well.
Putin is now threatening to aid the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad if the United States executes a military strike against the Arab country. Putin reportedly said in an interview he would reconsider the status of a suspended S-300 missile defense contract, Fox News reported.
“We have a contract for the delivery of the S-300s. We have supplied some of the components, but the delivery hasn’t been completed,” he said. “We have suspended it for now. But if we see that steps are taken that violate the existing international norms, we shall think how we should act in the future, in particular regarding supplies of such sensitive weapons to certain regions of the world.”
Putin’s warning comes on the heels of accusing Secretary of State John Kerry of lying about the Assad regime gassing its own people with chemical weapons such as sarin.