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. lol

    lol overcharged

    March 6, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  2. Peter E

    I know the Cold War is technically over, but the picture of us giving the Russians a big red button to push still looks quite ironic...

    March 6, 2009 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  3. Matt

    This woman has just proved how grossly unqualified she is to hold this post. She is a joke get rid of her now or just leave her over there I really don't care either way.

    March 6, 2009 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  4. Walter

    I actually found this a good article. A little on the fun side but we need that from time to time and the picture was a good one. Showed the playful nature of the event. Good reporting.

    March 6, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  5. cheryl brooks from cali

    Good Hillary You have gotton off on a good start.....

    March 6, 2009 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  6. Krystal in AZ

    Haha! I think that's hilarious, given our former President's way with words! How ironic. But you know what? Humor is a great diplomat, and with all the seriousness of our situation with Russia, I think that this humanizes both sides! We are all one people sharing this Earth, and we have as much in common with eachother as we don't. God given free will in all peoples of this world will lead to conflct and disagreement, but God also gave us the ability to identify with eachother, and to work through those conflicts and disagreements. Thank you, humor!

    March 6, 2009 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  7. Kyle in San Diego

    lol, hilarious...

    March 6, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  8. Jake

    Spell-check wouldn't have caught that mistake...

    March 6, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  9. Obama 2.0

    It should read, crude oil $20.00 a Barrel!

    March 6, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  10. Kim, Dallas, TX

    Having lived through much of the cold war, it's so nice to see the two countries laughing about a red button! I find it funny and light hearted, and not fear driven which gets so old.

    March 6, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  11. Marsh

    If it weren't so sad it would be funny. This administration may make the Bush presidency look saavy and intelligent!

    March 6, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  12. Willy Brown

    Mrs. Bill CLinton please stay in RUSSIA!

    March 6, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  13. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia in CA

    OMG! The Russian is flipping us the bird!!

    March 6, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  14. joe

    you say POTATOE...

    March 6, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  15. Matthew, Detroit

    Hillary is an idiot and this proves it. Good job Hillary.

    March 6, 2009 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  16. ray ray

    Heyyy... how did the OVER-CHARGE button get out of Obama's office? What will Nancy, Harry and Obama do on their weekly meetings without being able to push it???

    March 6, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  17. David

    Can't wait for the SNL spoof...

    March 6, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  18. Dalek Dance Party

    Someone should Photoshop the Easy Button into that photo.

    March 6, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  19. Unbelivable

    Did anyone consider that a "button" may not be a good item to use as a symbol of friendly relations between the US and Russia, given that the number one threat to each other is pushing the (nuclear) button? Wouldn't the Obama administration and the Department of State have considered that? Now there is a photo of them both "pushing the button". Must be a comfort to others...

    March 6, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  20. Dr. Cole

    I second the red button thing...this administration needs to pull their head out of their butt. RED BUTTON??? Russia...nukes??? Let alone with all of the so called specialists they have at their disposal, they can't even get the correct translation. Talk about making the US look like a bunch of idiots!!! What kind of CHANGE is this??? From bad to even worse...what is going on in Washington?

    March 6, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  21. Texas Teacher

    Now this is simply human frailties. I have found with foreign languages that both parties get a kick out of the misunderstandings of language! And it is not taken as a serious offense! Wonderful photo says it all! :)

    March 6, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  22. Sue

    American's are dumb... all the way up to the top.
    Dumb, dumb, DUMB!!!

    March 6, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  23. Little too late????

    Cute, Hill...real cute. Gimmicks ALWAYS work for the DemacRAT party. Just like JFK loving Berliners, 'the secret letter to Medvedev', and the 'Don't Mess with Joe' comments.

    Quit it, already, with the gimmicks!!

    March 6, 2009 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  24. miles in CA

    She's a moron and doesn't deserve her position.

    March 6, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  25. dumbocrat alert

    what would you expect from a nobama cabinet member. But the good news is she is not president. The russians are lol at Americas' CHANGE.

    March 6, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
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