The Obama administration’s Russian Reset began in Geneva on March 6, 2009. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton huddled with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, and together they pressed a red button that should have been labeled “Reset” in Russian. Instead, Hillary’s aides had mislabeled it with the Russian word for “Overload.” Regardless, once pushed, the button symbolized a red dawn of increasingly cozy U.S.–Russian affairs.
Obama announced on September 17, 2009, that he would cancel President George W. Bush’s plan to station missile-defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. “This is a U-turn in U.S. policy,” complained former Czech ambassador to Washington Alexander Vondra. “Russia had furiously opposed the project, claiming it targeted Moscow’s nuclear arsenal,” added Luke Harding and Ian Traynor of London’s Guardian. “Obama’s climb-down is likely to be seen by Russia as a victory.”
Indeed, Vladimir Putin applauded Obama’s strategic abandonment of the Poles and Czechs. The Russian strongman said: “I do anticipate that this correct and brave decision will be followed by others.”
Putin soon savored more first-class service on the Russian Collusion Express. Barely a month after shafting Poland and the Czech Republic, Team Obama began to ply Putin with planes. To that end, Hillary jetted to Moscow on October 13, 2009.
“We’re delighted that a new Russian airline, Rosavia, is actively considering the acquisition of Boeing aircraft,” Clinton declared at Moscow’s Boeing Design Center. “The Ex-Im Bank would welcome an application for financing from Rosavia to support its purchase of Boeing aircraft.” Three days later, the Washington Post reports, “Boeing formally submitted its bid for the Russian deal.”
On June 1, 2010, the Kremlin-owned Rostekhnologii company — now Rostec — decided to purchase up to 50 Boeing 737s for Russia’s national airline, Aeroflot. Price: $3.7 billion.
That August 17, just ten weeks later, Boeing unveiled a $900,000 gift to the Clinton Foundation to “help support the reconstruction of Haiti’s public education system” after an earthquake had pulverized that destitute island the previous January.
Hillary also promoted Skolkovo, an “innovation city” near Moscow, backed by Kremlin seed rubles worth some $5 billion.
“At a long meeting I had with [Russia’s then-president Dimitry] Medvedev outside Moscow in October 2009, he raised his plan to build a high-tech corridor in Russia modeled after our own Silicon Valley,” Hillary explained. “I suggested that he visit the original in California,” she added.
Hillary’s State Department arranged for 22 leading U.S. venture capitalists to tour Skolkovo in May 2010. Medvedev, in turn, traversed Silicon Valley the next month.
State persuaded Cisco, Google, and Intel, among others, to join Skolkovo. By 2012, the project boasted 28 “Key Partners” in America, Europe, and Russia. Three-fifths of these organizations donated to the Clinton Foundation or paid Bill Clinton speaking fees. From Russia with Money, an August 2016 paper by the Government Accountability Institute, reported that 17 “Key Partners” contributed between $6.5 million and $23.5 million to the Clinton Foundation.
But by 2013, the U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Program warned: “Skolkovo is arguably an overt alternative to clandestine industrial espionage.” Boston-based FBI agent Lucia Ziobro concluded in 2014, “The FBI believes the true motives of the Russian partners, who are often funded by their government, is to gain access to classified, sensitive, and emerging technology from the companies.”
While visiting Moscow on March 24, 2010, Hillary justified these actions: “Our goal is to help strengthen Russia.”
She said this to First Channel TV host Vladimir Pozner, a Soviet-era relic who still communicates in barely accented English — just as he did when he tried to sell Western audiences on the joys of Communism.
Rosatom, the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation, announced plans on June 8, 2010, to buy a 51.4 percent stake in Uranium One — a Canadian company whose international assets included some 20 percent of America’s reserves of the active ingredient in atomic reactors and nuclear weapons. This $1.3 billion purchase of a strategic-commodity company required the approval of the mysterious Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Hillary was one of nine federal-agency chiefs on CFIUS (pronounced SIPH-ee-us).
Three weeks later, Bill Clinton keynoted a Moscow conference staged by a Kremlin-tied investment bank that promoted Uranium One’s acquisition. Renaissance Capital paid Clinton $500,000 for his one-hour speech that June 29.
CFIUS’s evaluation of Rosatom’s offer, Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer observed, coincided with “a spontaneous outbreak of philanthropy among eight shareholders in Uranium One.” Then-chairman Ian Telfer gave the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative $3.1 million. Founder Frank Giustra gave the Clinton Foundation $131.3 million. Before, during, and after CFIUS’s review, Schweizer calculates, “shareholders involved in this transaction had transferred approximately $145 million to the Clinton Foundation or its initiatives.”
Leading congressional Republicans rebelled.
“We believe that this potential takeover of U.S. nuclear resources by a Russian government–owned agency would pose great potential harm to the national security of the United States,” Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, then the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote CFIUS’s then-chairman, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The top Republicans on the Financial Services, Homeland Security, and Armed Services Committees also signed Ros-Lehtinen’s October 5, 2010, letter, which beseeched CFIUS to “block the sale.”
As a CFIUS member, the ever-voluble Hillary could have heeded this red alert and stopped Putin from controlling a fifth of U.S. uranium supplies.
No such luck.
Eighteen days after the GOP’s admonition, CFIUS let Rosatom purchase a majority stake in Uranium One. Subsequent investments pushed the Kremlin’s share of Uranium One to 100 percent by January 2013.
Soon after taking total control of Uranium One, Rosatom CEO Sergei Kiriyenko crowed: “Few could have imagined in the past that we would own 20 percent of U.S. reserves.”
Obama clearly signaled the Kremlin that the Russian collusion would continue in his second term. At a March 26, 2012, meeting in Seoul, South Korea, an open microphone captured his conversation with Medvedev, which neither knew was being recorded.
Obama asked for Russia’s patience, “particularly with missile defense.” Obama added: “This is my last election. . . . After my election, I have more flexibility.”
Medvedev replied: “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”
Obama got Moscow to rescue him from his Syrian “red line” fiasco.
Obama boasted in August 2012 that “a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
On August 21, 2013, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad struck rebel-controlled Ghouta with sarin nerve gas, killing hundreds of civilians, including boys and girls. The whole world was watching as Obama did nothing, even after Assad clearly poisoned his way across that red line.
Then–secretary of state John Kerry generated titters that September 8 when he said that America might ruffle Assad with “unbelievably small” air strikes. Kerry also said that day in London that Assad should surrender his chemical weapons and “allow a full and total accounting for that.”
Moscow loved the concept.
“Within an hour, an hour and a half,” Kerry said, “I got a phone call from Sergei Lavrov of Russia suggesting that was a really good idea.”
By mid-September, the U.S. and Russia agreed that Assad would remain untouched, and Syria would sign the Chemical Weapons Convention and yield its toxins.
While doves defended this display of diplomacy and disarmament over resolve and force, this policy certainly increased Russia’s global prestige and regional influence. But ultimately this agreement proved hollow when Assad yet again unleashed chemical weapons on his people last April, killing some 100 civilians. In response, President Trump finally enforced Obama’s red line by raining 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on Shayrat airfield, whence Assad had perpetrated that chemical assault.
Republican senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina drafted a January 4 criminal referral against former British spy Christopher Steele.