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Opinion

Jed Babbin: The pravda about Hillary Clinton's Russian 'reset'

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Opinion,Op-Eds,Jed Babbin,Hillary Clinton,Russia,Foreign Policy

"Pravda" is the Russian word for "truth", as well as the name of a Russian newspaper that is famous for avoiding it. As Hillary Clinton's term as secretary of state ends, it's time for the truth to come out about her singular achievement: the supposed resetting of our relationship with Russia.

Clinton's "reset" came only seven months after Russia had invaded neighboring Georgia, an action that caused a Cold War-like chill in our relations. Clinton's overture to Russia was supposed to reorient both nations to avoid the dangers posed by that and other Russian actions.

That "reset" began ignominiously, with her presentation of a big red button to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in March 2009. The button was supposed to say "reset" in Russian, but as Lavrov pointed out to Clinton in the presentation ceremony, the State Department got the Russian word wrong: it said "overcharged," not "reset." Both diplomats laughed off the error, Clinton saying that America wouldn't let Russia overcharge us for what was supposed to be the new, friendlier relationship.

A "reset" would mean that the two nations were more closely aligned in policies and actions. But in just the past year, Russian submarines have prowled close to our East Coast, Russia has continued its support of Iran's nuclear weapons program, it has a new agreement to sell arms to Iran, and it has reacted in Soviet style to our efforts to pressure Russia on human rights.

Human rights have always been Obama's first priority, and Russia's record in recent years is dismal. Sergei Magnitsky -- a lawyer crusading against government corruption -- was arrested and died in jail of untreated pancreatitis in 2009. The outcry against the Russian officials responsible for Magnitsky's death led to U.S. enactment of a law that prohibited those responsible for it from visiting the U.S. and freezing any financial assets they have here.

Last week, Russia retaliated by enacting a law barring Americans from adopting Russian children.

Russia is blocking further UN action against Iran and Russia's alliance with Assad's Syrian regime -- in conjunction with Iran -- may mean that Assad remains in power. And Russia is pursuing a Soviet-like arms buildup while our forces are being built down by Obama-imposed budget cuts.

One example of the Russian buildup was announced last week. The third of the Russian Borei-class "super modern" submarines was launched. Supposedly noiseless -- the characteristic that makes submarines effective -- the Borei submarines are fast, powered by a new generation of reactors, large enough to carry 16 nuclear ballistic missiles, and are armed with a new missile reportedly designed to overcome new missile defense systems. Last year, Russia announced its new stealthy T-50 fighter, intended to compete with our stealthy F-22 and F-35 jets. The Putin government is spending enormous amounts of funds to develop and deploy these and other new weapon systems.

As troubling as the Russian arms buildup is, its foreign policy is more so. Russian support for Iran takes many forms, including continued support for Iran's nuclear program. In a September interview with a German television station, Putin reportedly said that, "If our Western partners can offer to compensate us for the possible losses if we stopped our activities in the sphere of military-technical cooperation, we can think about it." Denied the bribes Putin sought, Russia announced a new agreement with Iran in October, offering to sell about $2.9 billion in fighter aircraft, naval ships and tanks to the Ahmadinejad regime.

Russia hasn't yet returned to the status of our primary foreign adversary, but the Putin government is working hard to achieve it. By any objective measure, Clinton's "reset" hasn't worked.

Jed Babbin was appointed deputy undersecretary of defense by President George H.W. Bush. He is the author of such best-selling books as "Inside the Asylum" and "In the Words of Our Enemies."

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