International relations is the arena of understanding different peoples and cultures and one might expect that Barack Obama, with his wide ranging international background, along with America's top diplomat, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with her vast international experience, might understand international nuance.
Yet on Hillary's first outing with one of America's most difficult adversaries, she delivered a gift bearing an incorrect translation: an insult because it represents a lack of proper care in even properly translating one word.
What do we pay that big crowd at the State Department for, anyway? Too expensive and porky, if they can't get one word properly translated. But I'm picky.
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented her counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, with a big red button marked "peregruzka" she thought this meant "reset."
The symbolic resetting of Russian and U.S. relations did not go perfectly.
"You got it wrong," Lavrov said." Both diplomats laughed. "It should be "perezagruzka" (the Russian word for reset,) Lavrov said. "This says 'peregruzka,' which means 'overcharged.'"
We disagree with CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty who said the U.S. and Russian relationship had to be reset "after relations 'crashed' when Russia invaded Georgia last August."
In fact, the Bush Administration and most of Europe suspended relations with Russia in hopes of punishing or at least getting the attention of the oil rich giant after Russia's incursion into Georgia. But then a winter gas dispute with the Ukraine moved Russia to cut off gas to Europe - teaching the West a memorable lesson: oil and gas are power.
Relations with the U.S., Europe and NATO have suddenly gotten rosier for Moscow and the gas to Europe is flowing again. That's power, not diplomacy talking.
Clinton said the two sides will re-negotiate a follow-up to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and nonproliferation. On other issues like Afghanistan, the Middle East and Iran, Clinton said, "We will work through them."
On issues where there is disagreement, Clinton said, "We are keeping those on the list because, we think through closer cooperation and building trust in each other, we can even tackle some of those differences."
The tricky "hot button" between the U.S. and Russia right now is Iran. Russia has been assisting Iran with nuclear development and air defense weapons. The Obama Administration wants Russia to persuade Iran from moving closer to a nuclear weapon program. Israel plays in this discussion. A right wing government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu is being formed in Israel and Netanyahu has made noise about attacking Iran in the past.
So, to keep world peace, the Obama Administration may be willing to give up its missile defense effort in the Czech Republic and Poland in order to gain Russian help with Iran.