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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image=
caption="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. ~~ July ~~


    March 6, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  2. Seattle


    March 6, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. enriqueatanacio

    As much as I would hate to say this, Former Sec. of State Rice would have probably not got that wrong. Nonetheless, its still a bit funny. Glad to see HR Clinton representing the USA.

    March 6, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    This is diplomacy. I love it!! Good job Secretary Clinton.

    March 6, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  5. justin

    What a joke our Gov't is

    March 6, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  6. Clinton, NV

    THIS IS EMBARRASING! Why the hell are we giving Russia anything with a little red button on it? "Reset"? What about "finger on the button"? Are we that far removed from the nuclear cold war? This was extremely poorly thought out even without the "typo" . . .

    March 6, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  7. Gary

    Funny but no big deal, we should keep it as is ("overcharge") because we could use the money.

    March 6, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  8. Danie;

    You gotta admit, this was pretty funny...

    March 6, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  9. Dawn

    SOS Hillary Clinton is doing one helava job as top diplomat. Going to Asia, Middle East and to Russia. Going abroad and trying to bring our one time friends back. She has the clout and she is loved. This is something that President Obama seen in her when he tapped her for this position. This makes Bill awfully proud.

    March 6, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  10. Joe Unger, San Francisco

    What is this bunk that relations crashed after Russia invaded Georgia?
    Relations crashed after the nutty president of Georgia "invaded" the separatist states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia with his army and committed genocide on the people there. He was angry that these states did not want to be a part of Georgia; they wanted to be independent and were much friendlier with Russian than Georgia.
    It was pathetic during the debates that both McCain and Obama stuck to the tired old line of Russia being the big bad bear and ignoring the killings of people in those provinces by the Georgian army.
    Granted the Russian are our rivals but that means we ignore state sponsored killings by the Georgian army because we want to play political games? All over Europe, the Georgian president was blamed for that mess (it is their backyard after all) but here in the US, the view we're fed is it was all the fault of Russia.

    March 6, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  11. Observant

    That's my girl. Hillary thinks fast on her feet and I am proud of her.

    March 6, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. Dan (Redmond, WA)

    At least it didn't say something else... they could've triggered WWIII

    March 6, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  13. Sean

    Oh oh, I don't like the finger Lavrov chose to push the reset button. Is that the sign of a better relationship? just kidding

    March 6, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  14. brycedub

    Are we sure it's not a listening device? What a good trick!

    March 6, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  15. Cecil Jones

    I'm just glad it wasn't the word for launch.

    March 6, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  16. demwit

    What about the EASY button!!??

    March 6, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  17. The Truth, what a bunch of clowns this administration is. If Bush's administration would've made that mistake the media would be dancing in the streets but because it's kommandant Obama's crowd, well, it's all in good fun.

    March 6, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  18. b..desai

    To Hillary Clinton,
    i came to America in the year 96, and since then i was thinking that america is democratic country but could not represent a woman as its president since last 122/of years why.........?

    all though you miss the chance against Obama in the last election.
    but President Obama had been equally genarious that he choose your
    voice in his administration. and so are so humble that you took up the chance to change the world in a differnt way.
    i till rember the stories of great fighting between the 2 big powers of then world in
    from the years 1954 to and on wards competating in developing different
    nucleare arms/missiles tanks atc.which they could utilised yet.
    but brought tremendious pressure over the other worlds countries.
    "mr gorbochov turn down that The Burliin wall dividing the unity of german people" was the american stratagies and then to break the Great Russian Empire. and so they did..
    and this is the American policy i had read during my study of history.
    president Bush went on war on iraq on the flimsy groud in the
    name of securing the safety of america but in doing so he brought
    unbeliveable soorows/hardship and down turn of american economy and
    what not?
    in view of this you are on right track to shake hand with russian/
    and else where. President Obama is too. from mr.desai

    March 6, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  19. demwit

    Overcharge!? No, no, that's what Congress does to taxpayers...

    March 6, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  20. RealityKing

    Clinton is clueless. What a joke..

    March 6, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  21. tigerpaw4life

    And the free spending of this administration continues

    March 6, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  22. cute!

    thanks for a laugh, on a edgy day.

    now, get to work, mrs. clinton!

    March 6, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  23. No Vaseline

    Nice. I like what I'm seeing from our foreign policy team

    March 6, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  24. sensi johnson

    Whatever! it is still a very good sign. And oh! the smiles looks genuine. Great job madam secretary.

    March 6, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  25. Ray Fisher

    Since that button was purchased by the government, the word "overcharged" is entirely appropos!!!

    March 6, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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