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Hillary Clinton Urges Tougher Line On Putin

Hillary Clinton: "Hard men present hard choices -- none more so than Vladimir Putin."
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for a "new course" on U.S.-Russian relations with a tougher line against President Vladimir Putin.

Clinton writes in her forthcoming memoir of her time as secretary of state, "Hard Choices," that she wrote two memos to President Barack Obama on Putin, one in May 2012 and another in January 2013.

In the first, she says that she wrote "bargain hard" because Putin will "give no gifts."

In the second, she argued that the United States should "hit the pause button" on new cooperation with Russia.

She adds that "strength and resolve" are the only language that Putin understands. Clinton claims that not everyone at the White House agreed with her "relatively harsh analysis," without offering specifics.

She suggests that her call for a harder line against Putin has been proved correct by events.

For instance, in the second memo, she said that Obama should decline a presidential-level summit in Moscow with Putin, which Obama ended up doing as relations soured over Russia's harboring of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Putin's Actions 'No Surprise'

Clinton's carefully written book comes amid speculation of a possible 2016 presidential bid.

She has made no announcements of a bid, but many see the book as a trial run for a potential campaign.

RFE/RL obtained an advance copy of the book, which is to be released by Simon and Schuster on June 10.

Clinton says that Putin's actions against countries on Russia's borders were no surprise.

The Ukrainian crisis was "far from being a surprise," she writes, and the Russian leader's plans to create a Eurasian Union "revealed Putin's true agenda...effectively to 're-Sovietize' Russia's periphery."

Of Putin, she quips, "hard men present hard choices -- none more so than Vladimir Putin."

She writes of trying to speak with him one-on-one, and getting his attention by talking about Siberian tigers and her visit to a memorial in St. Petersburg dedicated to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad.

Defending The 'Reset'

Clinton, however, defends the policy of "resetting" relations with Russia to work on areas of mutual cooperation in the early years of the Obama administration when Dmitry Medvedev was president.

Some Republican critics have claimed that the policy was to blame for the Russian invasion of Crimea, but she says the criticism "misunderstands both Putin and the reset."

"The reset was not a reward," she writes, "it was a recognition that America has many important strategic and security interests, and we need to make progress where we can. That remains true today."

She admits that the mistranslation of the word "reset" on a red button offered to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an infamous photo-op was "not the finest hour of American linguistic skills."

Clinton's comments on Putin in her memoir are less harsh than ones she gave at a private fundraiser in Long Beach, California, on March 4, where she compared his actions in Ukraine to Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler's policies to protect ethnic Germans in Europe. The book contains no such analogy.

However, she says that Putin's worldview is "shaped by his admiration for the powerful czars of Russian history."

Putin suggested in a French radio interview on June 4 that Clinton was "weak" and that she "has never been too graceful in her statements." He added that "maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman."

The book shows that Clinton would like Putin to think otherwise should she become commander in chief.