Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ellen Tauscher

Hillary’s Russia Problem More Than ‘Reset’

Hillary Clinton, a presumptive contender for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, chose Ellen Tauscher, a former congresswoman, to be a top aide for Clinton’s presumptive run. Tauscher is a long-time loyal ally to Clinton, who brought her in to handle arms control during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State. As they say in Washington, personnel is policy, as Clinton presumably wanted a Russophile to be her top aide. While working for Clinton, Tauscher was a key advocate for the START agreement.  At the time, John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, outlined several concerns, which Tauscher pooh-poohed. After all, Tauscher argued, the Cold War was over and the Russians could be trusted. The need to work with divergent interests and views necessarily constrains government officials. Seldom does anyone have enough power to push his or her views in their entirety over career bureaucrats and political appointees who might have different views. The true test of one’s opinion, therefore, is what they do when they are outside government.

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Hillary Clinton, a presumptive contender for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, chose Ellen Tauscher, a former congresswoman, to be a top aide for Clinton’s presumptive run. Tauscher is a long-time loyal ally to Clinton, who brought her in to handle arms control during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State. As they say in Washington, personnel is policy, as Clinton presumably wanted a Russophile to be her top aide. While working for Clinton, Tauscher was a key advocate for the START agreement.  At the time, John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, outlined several concerns, which Tauscher pooh-poohed. After all, Tauscher argued, the Cold War was over and the Russians could be trusted. The need to work with divergent interests and views necessarily constrains government officials. Seldom does anyone have enough power to push his or her views in their entirety over career bureaucrats and political appointees who might have different views. The true test of one’s opinion, therefore, is what they do when they are outside government.

Tauscher joined the Atlantic Council; there is nothing wrong with that: The Atlantic Council is home to an impressive array of former officials.  Tauscher, however, used her perch to launch a project to push her personal re-set even further. Here is the press release announcing her initiative:

The Atlantic Council and the Russian International Affairs Council today launched a new initiative to help reframe US-Russia relations and get past the Cold War-era nuclear legacy in our relationship, particularly the dominant paradigm of “mutual assured destruction.” The goal is to reconfigure the bilateral relationship towards “mutual assured stability” and refocus arms control and disarmament toward the development of reassuring measures, and thus help promote closer cooperation between Russia and the West.

The problem, in Tauscher’s view, was that President Obama hadn’t gone far enough in pushing détente with Russia. “We are committed to help our respective authorities revitalize US-Russia relations in this direction,” she declared. She did, however, continue in the same statement to praise the Obama administration’s decision to cancel missile defense projects promised to Poland and the Czech Republic.

What isn’t quite as obvious from the statement is the apparent funding for Tauscher’s “Mutually Assured Stability” initiative. She (and the Atlantic Council, at the time chaired by Chuck Hagel, Obama’s subsequent pick to be Defense Secretary) entered into partnership with the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). That sounds innocuous enough, unless one realizes that RIAC is actually funded by the Kremlin and remains a Kremlin-front. Alas, it would not be that much of an exaggeration to say that the woman whom Hillary Clinton considers her top advisor on Russia, arms control, and perhaps more broadly foreign policy effectively put herself partly in Russia’s pocket. Her actions were legal, but there is a sharp difference between legality and good judgment.

Where does Clinton really stand on Russia? Russia’s invasion of Crimea should be pause to consider what lessons should be learned. Alas, if her reliance on Tauscher is any indication, Clinton’s “re-set” moment was not simply a photo-op gone awry; it is symptomatic of bad judgment and a continuing self-destructive embrace.

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Linkage Has Officially Jumped the Shark

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration is in talks with Egypt, aimed at making the Middle East a nuclear-free zone. This is a little like the drunk searching for his keys under the street lamp because it’s the only place where there is light. If the administration wants to prevent proliferation and/or an arms race in the region, there is only one place on which it needs to focus its attention: Iran.

But since the administration refuses to turn up the heat on the regime, it has gotten nowhere in confronting the actual nuclear threat in the Middle East. So, instead, it is inventing a new threat and dealing with that one. In this case, we’re back to the laughable idea that the United States can extract good behavior from bad regimes by setting an inspiring example of self-abnegation, especially one in which we refuse to show any “favoritism” to our allies.

But perhaps the richest part of this new gambit is the administration’s belief — but of course — that even this far-flung ambition depends on the success of the peace process.

“We’ve made a proposal to them that goes beyond what the US has been willing to do before,” one [administration] official reportedly said. Others added that progress would have to be made on the Israeli-Palestinian track before such an agreement could be made.

“We are concerned that the conditions are not right unless all members of the region participate, which would be unlikely unless there is a comprehensive peace plan which is accepted,” the Wall Street Journal quoted Ellen Tauscher, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, as saying.

Perhaps this week we’ll learn that the administration cannot deal with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico unless Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks commence immediately, or that cap-and-trade is doomed until there is a Palestinian state, or that the election crisis in Iraq, and Sunni-Shia tensions generally, will remain unresolved so long as Jewish housing projects move forward in Jerusalem. Or perhaps what’s really going on here is that the administration is simply inventing forums in which Israel can be isolated and castigated. All Obama is accomplishing through this increasingly bizarre obsession is guaranteeing himself more failure.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration is in talks with Egypt, aimed at making the Middle East a nuclear-free zone. This is a little like the drunk searching for his keys under the street lamp because it’s the only place where there is light. If the administration wants to prevent proliferation and/or an arms race in the region, there is only one place on which it needs to focus its attention: Iran.

But since the administration refuses to turn up the heat on the regime, it has gotten nowhere in confronting the actual nuclear threat in the Middle East. So, instead, it is inventing a new threat and dealing with that one. In this case, we’re back to the laughable idea that the United States can extract good behavior from bad regimes by setting an inspiring example of self-abnegation, especially one in which we refuse to show any “favoritism” to our allies.

But perhaps the richest part of this new gambit is the administration’s belief — but of course — that even this far-flung ambition depends on the success of the peace process.

“We’ve made a proposal to them that goes beyond what the US has been willing to do before,” one [administration] official reportedly said. Others added that progress would have to be made on the Israeli-Palestinian track before such an agreement could be made.

“We are concerned that the conditions are not right unless all members of the region participate, which would be unlikely unless there is a comprehensive peace plan which is accepted,” the Wall Street Journal quoted Ellen Tauscher, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, as saying.

Perhaps this week we’ll learn that the administration cannot deal with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico unless Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks commence immediately, or that cap-and-trade is doomed until there is a Palestinian state, or that the election crisis in Iraq, and Sunni-Shia tensions generally, will remain unresolved so long as Jewish housing projects move forward in Jerusalem. Or perhaps what’s really going on here is that the administration is simply inventing forums in which Israel can be isolated and castigated. All Obama is accomplishing through this increasingly bizarre obsession is guaranteeing himself more failure.

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