‘Not a button, but a real reset’: US needs major change in Russia relations, says ex-Pentagon chief

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. © Jacquelyn Martin
One of the priorities for the next US president has to be a “real reset” with Russia, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said, adding that anti-Russian sentiment in America has reached boiling point and is at its worst level since the Cold War.

The former Republican senator from Nebraska, who served as defense secretary under Barack Obama, said one of the first things the next US leader should do is reach out to Russian President Vladimir Putin to reset relations. Conflicts in the Middle East and across the globe depend on it, he added.

“I think one of the priorities of the next president is going to have to be a real reset with Russia. Not a button, but a real reset,” he said in an exclusive interview with German daily Handelsblatt Global, given before the US election result was announced.

Hagel was referring to the previous attempt at a ‘reset’ in relations when then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a ‘reset button’ at a meeting in Geneva in 2009, pledging to improve relations between the two nations – something which never materialized.

“It [the reset] must incorporate and encompass all of the issues, and it’s going to have to be president to president,” Hagel said, adding that anti-Russian sentiment in the United States is at its worst level in recent memory.

Hagel said it would take some “imagination” from the next US president, since announced as Republican candidate Donald Trump, to narrow the gap with Russia and move forward on a whole host of intractable global conflicts, most notably Syria.

When asked about the US presidential election, Hagel slammed the campaign, saying both Hillary Clinton and Trump have undermined the American system.

“I think they’ve both debased our system. I think we have become mocked around the world,” he said.

“When we’re not being mocked, the rest of the world is looking at us with fright. When you’ve got an unstable America – an unsure, an unsteady America – it doesn’t make the world safer,” Hagel added.