Russian President Vladimir Putin is the "great disruptor" who has a "clear mission to undermine democracies, first and foremost, the United States" and people who continue to suggest the 2020 presidential election was not conducted fairly are helping him achieve his goals, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday morning.
"Sadly, what we've seen over the last four years and particularly since the election is that we have people in our own country who are doing Putin's work," Clinton said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," during an interview taking place as the long-anticipated summit between Putin and President Joe Biden was beginning.
"We never thought we had to worry about domestic enemies. We never thought we had to worry about people who didn't believe in our democracy," Clinton said, adding that people are helping Putin cast doubts on democracy in either a "witting or unwitting" way.
"They are doing his work to sow distrust, to sow divisiveness, to give aid and comfort to those in our country who, for whatever reason, are being not only disruptive but very dangerous," she said. "I think Biden knows he has to work on both fronts. We have problems here at home."
Clinton, who has also met with Putin, said there has been a "very deliberative process" that Biden and his team went through before meeting with Putin, including meeting with the United States' NATO and G-7 allies, and that was smart because Biden will be bringing messages from those meetings to his talks with Putin.
"It is a difficult undertaking because we have a lot of business that we have to take care of both around the world and here at home," said Clinton. "Where there can be cooperation we welcome that ... but (Biden) has to also make clear that Putin's strategy over the last four years of literally just ridiculing the United States, undermining us, allowing as well as overseeing attacks on our election structure, on our energy delivery system, on so much else has to stop."
Clinton began her tenure as Secretary of State in 2009 by offering a "reset" of Russian relations but ended her term with slams on the Putin government on several issues, leading Putin to fiercely attack her. Some Kremlin observers said their feud even led to Russian interference into her 2016 White House bid, including Russians hacking into her staffers' emails, reports a Washington Post article detailing their tense relationship.
She said Wednesday that there were three goals in mind with the reset: enlisting Russia to help put a lid on the Iranian nuclear program; approval on the New START agreement; and permission to fly over Russia to supply U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and all three plans happened.
However, even when an agreement is reached that is in the best interest of the United States, Putin brings a "continuing challenge" and will "continue to prod, undermine, and literally try to make our lives difficult, as we know," said Clinton.
With Biden, she added, "we have a president who will stand up and defend American interests," unlike with former President Donald Trump, who she derided as a "spokesperson for Putin."
Clinton said she also thinks there can be some cooperation from Putin, and she'd like to see negotiations about nuclear arms resume.
"We know that Russia has been really pushing forward with tactical nuclear arms, posing great dangers," said Clinton. "I would like to see a process where Russia is involved in negotiations that I hope eventually would include China."
There also should be a discussion between Putin and Biden about cybercrimes, or even a "Geneva convention" to bring the world together to draw some lines about what is not acceptable when it comes to cyber-warfare, said Clinton.
Meanwhile, Clinton said she expects a strong, "cutting to the chase" performance from Biden.
"When you deal with Putin one-on-one or in a bilateral setting, especially while the cameras are there, you're going to see a lot of what I saw clearly as mansplaining but also showing a sense of, you know, almost indifference and even a little disdain toward your counterpart," said Clinton.
She further claimed that Trump "elevated" Putin, and that is a problem.
"He basically lifted up Russia and lifted up Putin against our own country and our own president, and that behavior and that rhetoric continued," she said. "(Putin) has attacked our country with relatively few consequences.
But while "we can't turn the clock back," Biden can still work to find some common ground with Putin, Clinton said.
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