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What's Up With the 'Reset?'

Commentators have heaped criticism on the Obama administration for failing to forcefully advocate for human rights in countries with oppressive regimes. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who earlier this year suggested that human rights shouldn't interfere with other elements of the U.S.-China agenda, isn’t letting the Russians off the hook. In Moscow on Wednesday, Clinton, among other things, warned an assembly of students at Russia’s most prestigious university that "citizens must be empowered to formulate the laws under which they live.”

In an innovative society, people must be free to take unpopular decisions, disagree with conventional wisdom, know they are safe to peacefully challenge accepted practice and authority.
That's why attacks on journalists and human rights defenders are of such great concern.

In an interview with Echo Moskvy, one of the few independent media outlets left in the country, Clinton also called on the Russian government to denounce the “criminal elements” responsible for such attacks. High atop the list of attacks deserving such attention are the murders of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who had investigated Russian military intervention in Chechnya, and, more recently, of her associate Natalya Estemirova.

Clinton’s statements, perhaps, were not as stinging a rebuke as the regime might deserve. But her commendable words are another indication that the Obama administration won’t remain tastelessly silent on such matters as it seeks a “reset” of relations with the regime. And, yes, they might not do much more than provide comfort in solidarity to Russian activists and students. But that is reason enough.

By Stephen Stromberg  | October 14, 2009; 3:59 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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LOL, I don't think Stromber intended to joke, he must be writing what he writes out of sheer ignorance.

Just look up any Putin or Medvedev speech. You will find these toothless vague references to democracy, rule of law and concern for free press in abundance. She could have said the same in China and there too she would have found little objection.

How about something more serious? Like criticizing imperialistic strong handed Russian foreign policy towards its neighbors, namely Georgia and Ukraine? How about n raising concern over Kremlin total control over all TV stations? How about raising flag re Kremlin supported thugocracy in Chechnya?

Nada. Guess what - nobody care what the weak want:

Russia's Putin warns against intimidating Iran

Posted by: pihto999 | October 14, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Quite frankly, Steve, just paying lip service to human rights and freedom of speech does not make Mrs Clinton a "forceful advocate" of those. As rightly noted above, both Putin and Medvedev, the latter especially, regularlyy speak about the need to develop civil society and independent thinking within the Russian citizenry. It's just that their understanding of civil society and independent thinking differs from that of the Western world.

It seems to me that, despite the pro-civil rights and overall humanistic stance of the Obama government at home, it is pursuing a fairly pragmatic policy overseas, at least with respect to Russia, without the Quixotic struggle to impose an American understanding of democracy on foreign governments.

Posted by: Genie_ | October 15, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Hey Stromberg. Read Der Spiegel. It explains how what's really happening is the opposite of what you say.

"The US needs the Kremlin's support on Iran, Afghanistan and disarmament. Now Washington has promised Moscow to stop its continual criticism of Russia's democracy in a bid to get it on board. But Russian human rights activists are furious about what they see as American apathy to their plight.",1518,655134,00.html

Posted by: Compared2What | October 16, 2009 3:34 AM | Report abuse

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