Friday, March 06, 2009

Middle East and Europe Trip: The Reset Button

After her great town hall style meeting with the EU-US Next Generation, she met with other foreign heads, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Czech Republic's Foreign Minister Prince Karel Schwarzenberg. They held a joint press conference after meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels. Read the full remarks made here. Then, the Secretary headed off for dinner in Switzerland with the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov at the Geneva Intercontinental Hotel to discuss the future of Russia-U.S. relations.

The meeting was focused on missile defense, strategic offensive armaments, the Iranian nuclear program, the interaction in Afghanistan, the settlement of the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the response to terrorism and drug trafficking.

Before the meeting Lavrov spoke to the press: “We will take a fresh look at the bilateral agenda and international issues, in which we cooperate, and prepare a meeting of our presidents... We have cautious optimism about our meeting. This is our first meeting, and each side will spell out its position and future plans. The meeting will be the first step in preparations for the summit.”

For the most part, the meeting was very cordial and quite groundbreaking. Clinton pledged that the U.S. is going to take a new approach to Russia based on cooperation and common ground on several key issues including energy security, climate change, Iran and Afghanistan.

They did however, voice their different positions over Kosovo. She congratulated Kosovo leader over the "first year" of Kosovo independence, while Lavrov warned that Kosovo's unilateral announcement of independence posed "danger" to stability in the Balkan region. Clinton said the United States would continue to support Kosovo in their future efforts. I think that is super gutsy, and it really shows the new line of thinking she has brought to this Administration. Talking to one another and where our different countries disagree, we don't run away but talk more about how to move forward.

Hillary tried her best to show this new change in the administration in a way that I thought was really funny and cute. She presented Mr. Lavrov with a gift. A mock "reset button" at the start of their meeting. It was a symbolic gesture to signal improved ties with the new U.S. Administration, which sank to a post-Cold War low during Bush's term.

She handed him a the small box wrapped in a bow. Lavrov opened it and pulled out the gift: a red button on a black base with a Russian word peregruzka printed on top.

But alas, peregruzka doesn't mean "reset," the word meant “overcharge.” They both laughed about it and he agreed that it doesn't matter, it's still going on his desk. (Personally, I was a little shocked the State Department couldn't find anyone to translate that!! haha)

Watch their interaction below!


Bob W. said...

I totally sympathize with Secretary Clinton; I made a similar mistake due to language and cultural barriers with a new neighbor last summer. . .

Sarah said...

haha you shoulda went with the Pier 1 gift ;P said...

The Associated Press would like Americans to believe that our representatives have no clue what they are doing. Judging from comments on the various message forums Americans are gullibly buying the simplistic explanation that our State department supposedly doesn’t know how to translate the word “reset” into Russian. Nonsense! The Russian word peregruzka appears at the top of the button, spelled in latin letters. If this was meant to be a literal translation, why would the letters be in Latin? The english translation for this word is “overload” and anyone that knows how to type a few letters into an online translation website can easily figrue that much out. An english word appears below the button and that word is “reset”. These words do very much make sense together: when something is overloaded (like a circuit), you reset it.

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Sarah said...

good insight, rebellion. i didnt really think too much into the latin characters, although i did notice that!

from what i saw, the Russian President understood what the gift was to represent. i think that is all that matters right?

Anonymous said...

What mattered to me was how well Hillary responded, with spontanteous good humor.

What a diplomat she is! I am so proud of her.

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