March 6th, 2009
04:17 PM ET
11 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. David

    Overcharged is what the American taxpayer is for this garbage. Stop wasting our time and money Washington!

    March 6, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  2. IK

    Relations with Russia went downhill after they turned into a smaller version of the Soviet Union, and started killing jounalists, oppostion figures, and anyone who disagrees with them. They have no free press, they are helping the Iranians obtain a nuclear bomb, and are bullying Georgia, Ukraine, and the Baltics. Oh, but let's suck up to them and tell them that's all (Bush's) fault.

    Note to Hillary: the Russian isn't laughing with you. He's laughing at you. He's thinking,"How did the county that beat us in the cold war elected such a fool as Senator, and how can she be the (ugly) face of American diplomacy.

    Maybe Hillary is hedging her bets with the Chinese, and is looking for another dictatoryship to get campain contributions from.

    March 6, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  3. Endru in NC

    at least they talk about it, unlike some in the past who might have just started shooting...

    March 6, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  4. Barb

    I agree with John, that the first thought I had was the Cold War's "nuclear attack" button. What a stupid thing to do. And then we couldn't even get ONE WORD IN RUSSIAN CORRECT??? Makes the Americans look pretty stupid, and Clinton even stupider.

    March 6, 2009 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  5. Heather-NC

    Yup....let's continue to make nice with the bear...Maybe next time it will be our little country they want to stomp on instead of Georgia. Whats next......Telling N. Korea "awe you're not so bad dunno what S. Koreas problem is"....maybe they will like us too.

    March 6, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |


    March 6, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  7. Dave

    I'm sure that the poor translator at the State Department is looking for a new job. But Clinton handled it like a pro. She is really in her element. Go Hillary!

    March 6, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  8. Cindy

    Oh well, it was the thought that count. And now there's a sweet story behind it, too. I think it's a good thing... a good error. A great error, even.

    March 6, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  9. Bill

    A red button with a mistakenly translated label sounds great. but one of those cool DVD sets of Hollywood movies always makes a nice thoughful gift for world leaders as well.

    If the Russians want to regift the button, they could give it to the U.S. taxpayers. Its label "Overcharged" will make for a nice souvernier of the stimulus package and future budgets.

    March 6, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  10. fire the Russian translators at the state department

    what an embarressment

    fire them all and get new translators

    also, should we be forgiving them for Georgia? I think Russia was way over the line

    March 6, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  11. conservative

    You would have thought the hyped brilliance of the Dems could have got one Russian word correctly. What a farce this show is becoming !

    March 6, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  12. Bill

    Dave, "she handled it like a pro"? How so?

    She said "We won't let you do that to us, I promise. We mean it and we look forward to it."

    What's the English translation of that?

    March 6, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  13. Lora

    I liked it. Everybody deserves an opportunity to do over. Get it fixed and let it symbolize what it intended. I'm not a Hillary fan but the gesture was timely!

    March 6, 2009 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  14. Kevin

    You mean to tell me, we don't have one person in Washington who spoke Russian to ensure the word was right. Come on are you kidding me.....

    If this where we are going with the Dems, I think I should have taken my chances with the Independents.

    March 6, 2009 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  15. mike

    I think a set of DVD's would have been better.

    March 6, 2009 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  16. Renee

    What a joke this administration has become already! They insult the British with some stupid DVD collection – then misspell/misuse the Russian word for "reset". What a bunch of half-wit morons!

    March 6, 2009 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  17. Van - Bloomington, Ill.

    The Russians say they are very encouraged by "signals" from the Obama administration. Right- we say we'll abandon the missile defense shield, and they say will not help us put Iran in a box. Sounds like a rather one-sided arrangement. Who wouldn't be encouraged?

    March 6, 2009 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  18. Van - Bloomington, Ill.

    Is anyone giving odds on Keith Olbermann mentioning this unbelievable gaffe on his show tonight?

    March 6, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  19. Jose Escobar

    LOL. All you haters crawl back under your sad little rock. you never miss an opportunity do ya? I love HILLARY!

    March 6, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  20. Chris

    I have to say that this is a bit shocking. I took Russian in college and anyone who knows anything about a computer who's learned Russian will recognize the word for restart in Window's start ment is perezagruzka. Even the movie Matrix Reloaded was titles Matrix: Perezagruzka. Definitely made us look like ignorant Americans, the way many in the world see us. Whoever did that translation for her in the State Dept needs to be canned.

    March 6, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  21. tess

    could tina fey do something brilliant with this or will it be swept under the rug (or slimy rock) that covers everything democrats do in our illustrious press!

    March 6, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  22. Pantsuit too tight?

    She also got the names of two Europeon union members wrong and said that our Democracy has been around longer than theirs has, oops genius, they have us by a few THOUSAND years.

    Can one of the flock of nitwits rationlize this BEYOND blaming or talking about Bush?

    Bush is gone yay, but we are left with bigger little leaguers.

    How about Obambi screwing Brown over with a couple of gift shop trinkets and movies that had NO MEANING, good job Barry, these people were our ALLIES that fought with us REMEMBER, and that was the best you can do?

    I love you shep rationalizing THESE GAFFES, you would have been all over Bush and guess what, YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN RIGHT TOO,

    One and done Barry.

    March 6, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  23. reagan fan forever

    This is the stupidest thing you will see for a very long time.

    March 6, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  24. VAIndpdt

    Someone else added to the unemployment line. hahahaha. man. you can guarantee that person got fired.

    March 6, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  25. susan

    I found the incident sad. I was hoping this administration would show some substance. Instead we have tired, childish jokes by our Secretary of State and a water-cooler whiner for President. I don't think she presented an image of a competent diplomat, nor is our President acting Presidential. He spends most of his time complaining how everyone did everything wrong, how he's not at fault for anything, and how he's going to try to fix it but he's not sure how that will work. You can't fix what you won't own.

    March 6, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
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