Trump Presses Reset Button on Russia

A notable moment for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was her presentation of a “reset” button (pictured above) to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in 2009. In February 2017, President Trump rightly criticized Clinton for the reset, which came the year after Vladimir Putin had invaded the country of Georgia and seized two of the nation’s provinces, although his criticism seemed to concentrate more on style than substance.

“Hillary Clinton did a reset, remember, with the stupid plastic button that made us all look like a bunch of jerks?” Trump said in the Washington Examiner. “[Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov] looked at her like, ‘what the hell is she doing with that cheap plastic button?’”

Now, eight years later, President Trump is attempting his own reset with Russia. Less than a year after Putin’s hackers attempted to influence the American presidential election and succeeded in penetrating voter databases in at least 39 states, Donald Trump appears to be ready to forgive and forget.

After a rousingly strong speech in Poland in  which he criticized the Russian president for “destabilizing” Europe and the Middle East, two days later Trump seemed to make a 180 degree turn after a private meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Germany.

The two men seemed to hit it off in Hamburg. An hour into the 30-minute meeting, First Lady Melania Trump was sent in to get the two billionaire world leaders to break it up. Despite the First Lady’s efforts, the men talked for another hour and 15 minutes before moving along to the next items on their respective schedules.

When President Trump emerged from his conversation with Putin, he was far less critical of Russia than he had been a few days earlier. Immediately after the meeting, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a press conference that, with respect to Syria, “by and large, our objectives are exactly the same” as Russia, despite the fact that Trump has just called Russia’s influence “destabilizing.” Russia intervened to support the Assad regime while the US position is still that “there will be a transition away from the Assad family.”

With respect to Russian interference in the American presidential election, Tillerson said, “The president pressed President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement. President Putin denied such involvement, as I think he has in the past.”

“The two leaders agreed, though, that this is a substantial hindrance in the ability of us to move the Russian-U.S. relationship forward,” Tillerson continued, “and agreed to exchange further work regarding commitments of non-interference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those of other countries. So, more work to be done on that regard.”

The work must have been quick and productive because today President Trump said, “It is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia.” Shockingly, the president even said that he and Putin “discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit,” a move that Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said was “akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit.’”

Trump’s statements translate to an “aw, shucks, I just can’t stay mad at you” moment in which he proposes to put the proverbial fox on guard duty at the henhouse. In addition to meddling with the 2016 elections, Russia is the state actor that is widely suspected of cyberattacks on US energy companies that were apparently occurring even as the men talked in Hamburg.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are not the only US officials that have fallen prey to the Putin’s apparently considerable charm and personal magnetism. In 2001, George W. Bush famously described the man he nicknamed “Pootie-Poot” as “very straightforward and trustworthy.”

Barack Obama seemed to be more honest with Putin than with his own constituents. In March 2012, President Obama told then-Russian President and Putin lackey Dmitri Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” after the US election that year. A few months later, Obama pooh-poohed Mitt Romney’s statement that Russia was a “geopolitical foe.” In a presidential debate, Obama poked fun at Romney saying, “The 1980’s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War has been over for 20 years.”

Putin played them all for fools.

George W. Bush closed out his presidency with the Russian invasion of Georgia, a US ally. Five years after Hillary Clinton’s reset and two years after Obama claimed the Cold War was over, Russia annexed Crimea, a territory of the Ukraine, and then launched into a shooting war with Ukraine itself. Obama’s administration ended with Russia meddling in the core institution of American democracy, the presidential election.

The previous resets with Putin’s Russia have been disappointments. Vladimir Putin will undoubtedly take advantage of President Trump’s naiveté as well. The Russian president has shown himself to be a man who sees an outstretched hand as a sign of weakness and who responds only to strength.

“A productive conversation would be one where President Trump clearly communicates to Putin that the US won’t be quick to offer concessions, but to the contrary, that Trump is going to be a tough negotiator, one who Putin feels is committed to protecting American interests and values, and someone who he will back his talk with action, not just as a one-off, but on a consistent basis,” Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia’s foreign policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, advised in Business Insider before the meeting.

Unfortunately, the conciliatory Trump, not the tough negotiator, is the man who met with Putin. Trump didn’t bring a cheap, plastic reset button, but he may as well have.

 

 

 

 

Democrats Got Their ‘Reset’ With Russia, Now They Don’t Want It

One of President Obama’s first promises was to “reset” relationships with Russia. In March, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton symbolically gave a reset button to her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The problem was the label on the button, “Peregruzka” in Russian actually means “overcharged.”

That gaffe is representative to the left’s lack of doing their homework in most things. Five years later, the “reset” was declared dead, failed.

t’s been over five years since the United States and Russia vowed to “reset” their relationship. In that time, the two countries have had to grapple with disagreements over Syria, Iran and Libya, as well as Russia’s welcome to U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and the U.S. condemnation of a Russian-supported referendum in Crimea.

In fact, the relationship has devolved into a petty tit-for-tat of diplomatic slaps in the face, sanctions, and military brush-offs. It’s no wonder the Russians used their considerable disinformation assets and conspiracy news generating operations to help Donald Trump and hurt Clinton. But remember, it was the Democrats who first wanted the reset.

Now that they have it, with President-elect Trump expected to nominate Exxon-Mobile chief Rex Tillerson, recipient of the Russian “Order of Friendship,” as secretary of state. This is how you give a reset button.

The company’s deep ties to Russia would potentially serve Tillerson well, given Trump’s desire to repair relations with the Kremlin. But Tillerson’s close ties to Putin could also become a flash point during confirmation hearings, especially in light of a recent CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system.

Part of the “reset” would necessarily give the Russians a pass on their attempt to influence an American presidential election. How much they actually influenced it is open to interpretation, and in fact intelligence experts with the FBI and CIA differ on its impact.

The FBI official’s remarks to the lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee were, in comparison, “fuzzy” and “ambiguous,” suggesting to those in the room that the bureau and the agency weren’t on the same page, the official said.

The divergent messages from the CIA and the FBI put a spotlight on the difficulty faced by intelligence and law enforcement officials as they try to draw conclusions about the Kremlin’s motives for hacking Democratic Party emails during the 2016 race. Officials are frequently looking at information that is fragmentary. They also face issues assessing the intentions of a country expert at conducting sophisticated “influence” operations that made it hard — if not impossible — to conclusively detect the Kremlin’s elusive fingerprints.

What really frosts my rear-end is that the left has no problem suggesting that ISIS and radical Islamic terrorists are simply reacting to American aggression in Iraq and other places–and our stalwart support of Israel–when they proclaim their dedication to our slaughter. If only we were nicer to the terrorists, they would see things our way (“universal values” and all–Obama’s Cairo speech and all).

But when it’s the Russians, and the left’s ham-handed and shallow “reset” didn’t work, they can’t fathom why the Russians might want someone like Trump in the White House. And what did the Russian hacking prove? That the Democrats did at least as much to ensure Trump’s win as anyone, and far more than the Russians could possibly have.