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March 6th, 2009
03:34 PM ET

Lost in translation

Jill Dougherty | Bio
Foreign Affairs Correspondent

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 that “crashed” after Russian invaded Georgia last August.

So when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greeted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva before sitting down to their working dinner in Geneva 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.”

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

“You got it wrong," said Lavrov." Both diplomats laugh, Clinton with a loud, throaty laugh.

“It should be “perezagruzka” (the russian word for reset,) Lavrov says. "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." A line that seemed like it might have had more than one meaning.

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

A few minutes later, an email message to the reporters covering Clinton from Philippe Reines , senior adviser ro Secretary Clinton.

“Since we're all learning a little Russian today, “opechatka” is Russian for “typo.” 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...”

Moral of the story, as Ronald Reagan used to say:

“Trust, but verify.”


Filed under: Global 360° • Hillary Clinton • Jill Dougherty
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Maria

    Trust and verify Hilary for the capitol house at 5, by the way, I celebrated my first birthday in US in similar house, OH, what a concidence

    March 6, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  2. anything but california ~ hugh

    Since we are global neighbors, at least it didn't read "reset nuclear families!"

    March 6, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  3. Jennifer Mathieson

    ich bein ein berliner?

    March 6, 2009 at 3:56 pm |