Say, remember when Mitt Romney called Russia the “number one geopolitical foe” for the US during the presidential campaign? The media wrote Romney off as hopelessly trapped in Cold War history. Vice President Joe Biden even derided Romney in an April 2012 speech for referring to Russians as “Soviets,” accusing the Republican nominee of being out of touch with the reality of Russia today:
But just a month ago, Governor Romney, called and here again I quote, “without question our number one geopolitical foe” is Russia. (Laughter.) As my brother would say, go figure. (Laughter.) And sometimes — I don’t know whether it’s a slip of the tongue or it’s a mindset — but he even refers to Russians as “Soviets” — (laughter) — which I think — no, I think reveals a mindset. Everybody sometimes slips — I never do, but everybody sometimes slips. (Laughter and applause.)
Look, I think it’s fair to say when it comes to Russia, based on only what we know he’s said so far, Governor Romney is mired in a Cold War mindset.
Fast forward eight months. Guess who else is using the word “Soviet” in relation to Russia today? None other than Hillary Clinton. In a news conference in Dublin last night, the Secretary of State accused Vladimir Putin of attempting to “re-Sovietize” Central Asia under the guise of an economic partnership, and pledged that the US would take action to prevent it, reports the Financial Times:
The US is trying to prevent Russia from recreating a new version of the Soviet Union under the ruse of economic integration, Hillary Clinton warned on Thursday.
“There is a move to re-Sovietise the region,” the US secretary of state told a news conference in Dublin hours before going into a meeting with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
“It’s not going to be called that. It’s going to be called a customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that,” she said, referring to various iterations of a Moscow-backed plan to deepen economic ties with its neighbours.
“But let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.”
Mrs Clinton said efforts at regional hegemony had been accompanied by new campaigns of repression from pro-Moscow regimes throughout the former Soviet Union. Her tone signalled that the US was rethinking its “reset” in relations with Russia, declared in 2009, during which criticism of its human rights record has been muted and Moscow appeared to have a freer hand in the former Soviet region.
Ah yes, the infamous reset button. Remember the context of that stunt nearly four years ago? Barack Obama and his administration publicly declared that George Bush had been the big problem in American diplomacy, and that their arrival would signal a fresh start on relations with the world, especially with Russia. Any notion of Russia as a foe was just the result of cowboy diplomacy, but their Smart Power — as demonstrated by mistranslating the Russian for “reset” and not using Cyrillic — would bring a new era of openness and cooperation between Russia and the US.
Four years later, George Bush is looking a lot wiser. Perhaps Biden should have stopped laughing and started paying attention in April.