March 6th, 2009
04:17 PM ET
2 years ago

Clinton 'reset button' gift to Russian FM gets lost in translation

A little misunderstanding over a big red button.
A little misunderstanding over a big red button.

(CNN) - When it comes to Russia, the Obama administration has been talking about “pressing the reset button.” It’s meant to symbolize a possible new start in U.S./Russian relations, which “crashed” after Russia invaded Georgia last August.

So when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greeted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva Friday before sitting down to their working dinner, she was all smiles when she presented him a small green box with a ribbon.

Lavrov opened it and, inside, there was a red button with the Russian word “peregruzka” printed on it.

"I would like to present you with a little gift that represents what President Obama and Vice President Biden and I have been saying and that is: 'We want to reset our relationship, and so we will do it together.' ...

"We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?" she asked Lavrov, laughing.

“You got it wrong," said Lavrov, as both diplomats laughed.

“It should be “perezagruzka” [the Russian word for reset]," said Lavrov."This says ‘peregruzka,’ which means ‘overcharged.’”

A quick comeback – and recovery – from Clinton: "We won't let you do that to us, I promise. We mean it and we look forward to it."

Ever the diplomat, Lavrov says he’ll put the “reset” button on his desk.

A few minutes later, Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines sent an e-mail message to reporters covering the Secretary of State.

“Since we're all learning a little Russian today, ‘opechatka’ is Russian for ‘typo,'” he wrote. “So the *Opechatka* is being fixed, the gift will correctly read ‘Perezagruzka’ by the time of the joint press conference. If any of you travel with labelmaking devices equipped with Russian spell-check, please do let me know...”


Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (164 Responses)
  1. Darko

    God I wish that was an ejection seat button...

    March 6, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  2. Marty from Grand Rapids, Mi

    nice. The translator should be fired. Oh, and the person that verified it, should be fired. Nothing says how little you care then messing up a one word translation.

    March 6, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  3. Larry

    When the State Department of the United States cannot translate a single simple word in Russian for our Secretary of State, we are in big trouble. Let's hope the word "friend" is not similar to "fire" in Russian

    March 6, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  4. Politically Incorrect

    LOL... this was cute.. and a good gesture by the administration... now you just have to keep your word!

    March 6, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  5. Mike

    Great Diplomacy idiots....

    give Russia a Red Button to play with.

    This is seriously the most inept administration we have ever seen.

    Please George Bush just come back for a month and DO NOTHING so we can have another election.

    March 6, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  6. cruiserGT

    Wow... poor White House can't seem to get anything right. :(

    March 6, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  7. IndependentTogether

    LOL! Hey, if we can laugh together, it's a good first step:D

    March 6, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  8. RCLGuard

    Someone's losing his or her job over this one. HRC will be spitting nails when she gets back to the Sec of State offices.

    March 6, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  9. Had It

    A sense of humor and open honesty has always gone further than bullying and pistol-whipping.

    March 6, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  10. Amy

    Everything can be handled with a sense of humor. Little mixups like this can actually bond the participants if properly handled. Kudos on both sides for not taking the issue too seriously!

    March 6, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  11. Jeff in Illinois

    Good thing it didn't say, "Goodbye Moscow"!

    March 6, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  12. Thomas

    That is perfect. The Obama administration seeking change/restart, but in reality just overcharging us for poor government.

    March 6, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  13. ANNIE'S ADAM'S APPLE SHOWS SHE IS A TRANNY!

    Now that is diplomacy!

    Much better than the sabre rattling McCrypt and the shrub did over Georgia and Russia just so McCrypt might get elected.

    The American electorate is not as stupid as you repubs thought!

    March 6, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. Tom

    Why am I not surprized. Like most of Obama's plans they are are under-thought and 1/2 done.

    March 6, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  15. Robin in SC

    Looks like they both have a good sense of humor...leave it to Hillary to have a come back! I LOVE her as Secretary of State!

    March 6, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  16. Mikael

    I bet G.W. Bush wish that button fires a couple of warheads on Moscow!

    Happy that the "yanks and southerners" finally start to understand what world peace really means! All heil diplomacy!

    March 6, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  17. Marc

    ...this picture is too funny for words. I wonder if Putin would cheese for that photo like that?

    March 6, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  18. anything but california ~ hugh

    It's just a simple case of a foreign language barrier and worth a few chuckles. Thank goodness Americans speak english–well, most of us do–rather than speaking russian. Good luck Hillary, at least the red button didn't read "reset nuclear families!"

    March 6, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  19. Cathy

    Diplomacy at work...

    March 6, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  20. Shooky

    She meant to give the "overcharged" button to the American taxpayer, I hope this means we will be given a reset button soon.

    March 6, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  21. obama-mama

    That reset button crap makes me nervous

    March 6, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  22. elizabeth

    Good! It's about time.

    March 6, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  23. linda from south dakota

    its great to see them laughing as its minor mis-spell,,,, instad of getting angry,, laughters good,,, maybe now we can get things rolin on the right track,,,,with other countries

    March 6, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  24. slavs06

    Latest sign of administration ineptitude

    March 6, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  25. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Excellent way to open up dialogue which gave Hillary a good feel for what to do and say next, this was no error. Got to give it to Hillary, she's a cunning and smart. I myself have used some of the same techniques in business and it does work, nobody likes a know it all.

    March 6, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
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