The Washington Post

U.S.-Russia relations deteriorate even in holiday wishes

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center rear, arrives for a group photo with President Obama, Queen Elizabeth II and other world leaders attending the D-Day 70th anniversary in Benouville, France, on June 6. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Back in the old days of the Russia “reset,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued statements on Russia’s National Day on June 12, emphasizing warming relations.

In 2010 and 2012 the announcements noted the country’s “rich history” and culture. Clinton then quickly pivoted to talk about “building a new partnership” and all the “progress in areas of common concern” between the United States and Russia, such as reducing nuke stockpiles and working to stop proliferation and terrorism.

In 2010, Clinton said she was “confident that our renewed relationship will continue to grow deeper and broader” and sent “the Russian people my warmest wishes for a peaceful and prosperous year to come.”

She continued in that vein in 2012, talking about “the progress we have made together,” noting U.S. support of Moscow’s “effort to join the World Trade Organization” and again sending all Russians her “warmest wishes.”

But this year, there was a decided chill in the air and no talk of policy matters in Secretary of State John Kerry’s perfunctory five-sentence note on Wednesday.

Kerry instead wanted “to pause today and appreciate the great works of Russian literature, music and art that have touched so many people around the world.” He celebrated “the 200th anniversary of the birth of Mikhail Lermontov,” the great Russian poet, then poet and playwright Aleksandr Pushkin and poet Anna Akhmatova. (Hey! No Tolstoy? Dostoevsky?)

What about mutual cooperation? And “warmest wishes?” Fuggedaboudit.

“May the Russian and the American people share in a peaceful, stable and prosperous future,” Kerry concluded.

What happened to “deeper and broader? Was it the annexation of Crimea? Saber-rattling in eastern Ukraine?



Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.



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