The “reset” with Russia had a brief, unhappy life.
It began with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presenting her Russian counterpart with a mistranslated reset button reading “overcharged.”
It ended with current Secretary of State John Kerry denying knowledge of the late, unlamented policy on “Meet the Press”: “Well, I don’t know what you mean by the reset.”
Memories are short in Foggy Bottom. And understandably. Who wouldn’t try to forget a geopolitical initiative that has been exposed as willful naivete and strategic obtuseness from the beginning?
George Kennan wrote the famous Long Telegram at the outset of the Cold War. President Barack Obama would have needed only “A Very Brief Telegram” at the outset of his administration: “Bush’s fault.”
This was a perverse misreading of history. Of all President George W. Bush’s failings, not giving the Russians a chance wasn’t one of them. He notoriously looked into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s eyes at the beginning of his presidency and saw sweetness and light. By the end, his illusions were shattered by the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.
President Obama picked up like this Russian act of aggression had been perpetrated long ago by the Grand Duke of Muscovy, instead of by the very regime he was resetting with.
In a 2009 visit to Moscow, the springtime of reset, President Obama professed his belief “that Americans and Russians have a common interest in the development of rule of law, the strengthening of democracy, and the protection of human rights.” He was 0 for 3.
It didn’t take a student of Russian history, or of international relations or even of the model U.N., to know that this would end in ashes.
At one level, the Obama administration was guilty of the human impulse of wanting to see the world as you would like it to be rather than as it is.