To Russia Without Love

What Donald Trump said about women is indefensible. What Hillary Clinton has done is even more indefensible.

Take her time, for example, as secretary of state. Clinton had one major accomplishment during her tenure: she traveled a lot.

As Foreign Affairs put it when Clinton stepped down in 2013, “She leaves office without a signature doctrine, strategy or diplomatic triumph.”

That’s a kind assessment. In fact, she left a lot of wreckage during her four years in office.

One of the more troubling is U.S. relations with Russia.

Most Americans would blame Russian President Vladimir Putin for our poor relations, but he only maneuvered as a result of the weakness of U.S. policy.

Syria has been part of the Russia sphere of influence, starting during the 1960s. If the United States wasn’t going to intervene, it needed to quickly discuss the situation with Putin. Clinton didn’t seek out the Russians, leaving her successor, John Kerry, to mess up the situation even more.

Whatever happened to the Russian reset Clinton and Obama talked so much about?

The Russian leader, like his predecessors, seized on weaknesses. The absence of clear American failure in the Middle East sent Putin a message that he could do whatever he wanted to do in Ukraine.

Now he has reportedly started to move nuclear weapons to Kaliningrad, a Russian outpost sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. The reason? To establish Russian hegemony over the Baltic Sea.

Masha Gessen, who wrote a biography of Putin, dispels a number of myths in a recent column:

–Putin has not thrown his support behind Trump. The Russian leader has only mentioned the GOP nominee in passing. It is true Putin does not like Hillary because he blames her for inciting demonstrations against him in 2011-2014.

–Putin has not made Russia great again. The oil glut has taxed people’s income, and crime has become rampant in major cities.

–Russians do not overwhelmingly support Putin. His approval ratings are high, but the rest of the government, which rubber stamps his policies, get low marks.

–Russian society is not conservative. People have quite liberal views on abortion and sex.

–Russia’s policies are not simply a reaction to U.S. policies. Russia acts in its own self-interest as it it in Crimea.

Here is the column: http://tinyurl.com/hnxjsx4

The next president needs a serious reset with Putin. He’s tough and smart. He’s hardly the caricature the media use to portray him. He’s a leader of one of the most important countries in the world, and the United States needs to figure out a way to discuss the relationship between the two countries. Clinton has certainly failed to do that.

If Clinton is elected president, she will start with two major enemies: China and Russia. If Trump is elected, at least he would start out with only one, China, and the possibility of restoring some sense of order with Russia.


Christopher Harper, a recovering journalist with The Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and The Washington Times, teaches media law.