White House defends the Russia re-set

McClatchy Washington BureauMarch 6, 2014 

Obama

A bearded White House press secretary Jay Carney speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C.

SUSAN WALSH — AP

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton five years ago Thursday hit the button on a re-set with Russia that has since been abandoned.

But White House press secretary Jay Carney said the administration's Russia re-set had its victories, saying it led to cooperation between the two countries in resupplying U.S. forces in Afghanistan, as well as the START II treaty and efforts to persuade Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"What the president set out to do when he took office was to establish a bilateral relationship with Russian that ensured that the United States was very clear-eyed, and not either romantic or dismissive about the capacity to advance our interests in that relationship," Carney said.

He said the approach "allowed us to be extremely blunt when we have powerful disagreements with the Russians. And we have been blunt all along."

He dismissed Republican criticism of Obama's handling of Russia -- and suggested Republicans should be putting the country, not politics, first. Sen. John McCain, R-Az., and others have suggested that a "feckless" foreign policy has emboldened U.S. enemies, including Russia.

"I know that there is an argument out there -- factless, founded on no substantiated basis, that suggests that the president of Russia has taken the actions he's taken because of actions the United States has taken," Carney said. "I think that any historian, anybody knowledgeable about Russia or the former Soviet Union would be as dismissive of that suggestion as I'm trying to be now."

Carney called the criticism from McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., unwarranted.

"In a case like this, instead of being a partisan Republican and attacking the president, be a partisan American in identifying the outrageous actions and violations of international law that has taken place," he said. "The administration's been taking concrete action in response to the violation of international law that has taken place. We are working in concert with our partners to do so, and it is in the United States' interest and the interests of our allies and partners, and in the interests of the Ukrainian people to support Ukraine and to work to persuade Russia to reverse course."

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