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Statement of Hillary Clinton on Russia

March 02, 2008

"Today's presidential election in Russia – where the installation of Dmitriy Medvedev as Vladimir Putin's self-designated successor was never in doubt – marks a milestone in that country's retreat from democracy. Today's contest is not an open and democratic election, and the Russian people have been denied the opportunity to choose their leaders and shape the future of their country. There's no other way to describe today's election.

"Mr. Medvedev has said some hopeful sounding things in the course of his campaign, and the job of a new American President will be to test these words, to see whether they could mark a new approach in Russian politics and foreign policy.

"But we have to do this with our eyes open.

"The list of issues that divides the United States and Russia is already long – and growing longer. In the heart of Europe, where we have worked hard since the end of the Cold War to bury old rivalries and hostilities, we are witnessing renewed disputes between Russia and many of its neighbors.

"Russia has stirred nationalist feelings against neighboring countries like Estonia and Georgia, repeatedly used oil and natural gas as a political weapon, attempted to block Western diplomatic efforts to keep peace in the Balkans, criticized nations that seek to join the NATO alliance, and made clear that it regards democratic breakthroughs and progress in other countries on its borders as a threat to itself.

"Mr. Putin has put Russia on a path of zero-sum competition with the United States and many of our friends and allies. He has stifled independent media, harassed and jailed political opponents, and made elections a depressing formality.

"Unfortunately, President Bush failed to grasp what was happening. He began the process of tearing up treaties without finding other ways to preserve mutual confidence, all the while looking the other way while Russia challenged the interests of the United States and its allies. After September 11, President Bush focused U.S.-Russian relations around just one issue, fighting terrorism. Mr. Putin saw that this meant he had a free pass to act as he liked at home and in Russia's neighborhood. In the meantime, America's relations with our European allies, who are absolutely essential to an effective Russia policy, frayed.

"We simply have to do better than this.

"For the past seven years, the Bush Administration has neglected both big problems and big opportunities in our relations with Russia.

"As President, I will be ready to work with Russia where our interests intersect – fighting terrorism and nuclear proliferation are just two examples – but I also want Russia to understand what America's priorities are and that we will stand up for them."

Hillary Clinton, Statement of Hillary Clinton on Russia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/291220

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