Smart Power II: Faulty reset button

Six weeks ago, Hillary Clinton gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a present — a big red button that was supposed to say “Reset” in Russian, but which actually said “Overcharge” … in Latin script, no less.  Lavrov laughed at Hillary’s gesture, meant to symbolize a major change in direction for the Russo-American relationship.  Apparently, Lavrov’s still laughing at Hillary as he publicly insists that Russia will never increase pressure on Iran to stop building nukes:

Moscow says it would gladly hit the reset button on relations with Washington, but warns that it would never double-cross Tehran.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stood firm on Moscow’s relations with Tehran on Saturday, asserting that it would never agree to increase pressure on Iran.

“It’s our neighbor, it’s a country which can play a very important role in solving a number of acute international issues, such as the situation in Afghanistan, Iraq and different aspects of Mideast peace settlement,” Lavrov in a speech to a group of political strategists.

Lavrov waved aside recent US attempts to use a controversial missile shield as a means to buy Moscow’s support for tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

“Any trade-offs would be unprincipled and unrealistic,” he explained. “They would undermine trust in our diplomacy, and we cherish that trust no less than others.”

Remember how Team Obama claimed that it would have more success in pursuing the American agenda through “smart power” than through George Bush’s supposed arrogance on the world stage?  They’ve not quite made it to 90 days yet, and so far Russia has cut off our supply lines through Kyrgyzstan, announced its intention to start building new nuclear weapons, has reneged on its commitment to pull troops out of Georgia, and now has given the US the finger on Iran.  That’s an impressive list of foreign-policy setbacks for an entire term in office, let alone less than three months.

Russia took the measure of US diplomacy and decided that “smart power” meant “paper tiger”.  Moscow has spent the last three months testing us, and so far, we have not responded at all.  Hillary tweaked Barack Obama for only bringing a speech to office as experience compared to her “lifetime” on the world stage, but as it turns out, both of them are equally bad at this business.

That button worked … for Russia.  Instead of “overcharge,” though, I think it actually meant “overrated.”