Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The Gates files (V): Some sharp digs at Bill Clinton’s handling of foreign policy

Bob Gates also reveals in his book that he thinks that President Clinton’s failures in foreign policy have been insufficiently recognized. "I believed the relationship with Russia had been badly mismanaged after Bush 41 left office in 1993…. When Russia was weak in the 1990s and beyond, we did not take Russian interests seriously." (Not ...

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Bob Gates also reveals in his book that he thinks that President Clinton's failures in foreign policy have been insufficiently recognized. "I believed the relationship with Russia had been badly mismanaged after Bush 41 left office in 1993.... When Russia was weak in the 1990s and beyond, we did not take Russian interests seriously."

(Not that he is a Putin-hugger. At one point in a meeting with Russian officials, he passed a note to Condi Rice, then secretary of state: "I'd forgotten how much I really don't like these guys.")

That said, the other day I had lunch with an old friend who is a Russian specialist. He countered that Russia was weak well before the 1990s, but that there were a lot of people who didn't see that. He implied that Gates was one of them.

Bob Gates also reveals in his book that he thinks that President Clinton’s failures in foreign policy have been insufficiently recognized. "I believed the relationship with Russia had been badly mismanaged after Bush 41 left office in 1993…. When Russia was weak in the 1990s and beyond, we did not take Russian interests seriously."

(Not that he is a Putin-hugger. At one point in a meeting with Russian officials, he passed a note to Condi Rice, then secretary of state: "I’d forgotten how much I really don’t like these guys.")

That said, the other day I had lunch with an old friend who is a Russian specialist. He countered that Russia was weak well before the 1990s, but that there were a lot of people who didn’t see that. He implied that Gates was one of them.

Also, in arguing against a "counterterrorism" strategy in Afghanistan that Biden was advocating, Gates takes another pop at the Clinton administration, quoting from a memo he wrote to President Obama that, "We tried remote-control counterterrorism in the 1990s, and it brought us 9/11."

That said, Hillary Clinton is one top official who is depicted in Gates’s book as solid and reliable.

Speaking of Russia, its ally Ukraine is acting Putin-like creepy, sending out messages to the cell phones of demonstrators that, "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance." That "dear" is a nice touch!

Meantime, here is me yakking on NPR yesterday about the Gates book.

(Yep, not stopping here.)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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