Hillary Clinton and Modern Europe

Hillary Rodham Clinton served as the United States Secretary of State between 2009 and 2013, previously serving as a United States Senator from New York between 2001 and 2009, the First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001, and before that serving the same office in Arkansas. Even though she served a long career in the United States Senate and before that as an advocate for feminism and universal healthcare, her time as Secretary of State is perhaps her most memorable time in office and defined the modern relations between the United States and Western European nations like the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and others like them. In her memoir Hard Choices she explores her record at the State Department and her own record during her time in that office. Despite the controversies during her time as Secretary of State when it came to the Libyan intervention and the fallout of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, her involvement in Western European politics served to not only improve United States relations across the world but to also become an influential voice in the capitals of Europe.

One of the United States’ most valuable allies was the United Kingdom, which in 2009 was led by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and represented by Foreign Secretary David Miliband. As Clinton suggested, good relations between two nations and two leaders requires cooperation and personalities that allow for negotiation and good interactions. The relationship between Clinton and Miliband for example was cordial, albeit short, and was strained later on by the embattled Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was facing a parliamentary election in 2010.[1] The Bush administration she claimed had destroyed relations between himself and Europe, but while working under President Barack Obama, Clinton claims that the United States has worked tirelessly to repair those relationships. It is clear through this brief glimpse at relations between Clinton and Miliband that the United States was moving from among the most hated nations in the world to one of the most valuable when it came to having a prosperous relationship with others. Despite Miliband falling out of the leadership within the United Kingdom by May 2010—in part due to the fall of the Brown government and the rise of the Cameron government—it showed that Clinton’s relationship with the United Kingdom’s Foreign Minister helped to improve relations at large.

Despite her good relations with David Miliband, relations with the United Kingdom continued into the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, who took office as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in May 2010. When Cameron took office, he appointed William Hague to serve as the new Foreign Secretary. Even though he was a member and former leader of the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom, Hillary Clinton found him to be “…a thoughtful statesman with good sense and good humor.”[2] To help further reverse the damage the Bush administration had on relations between the United States and the United Kingdom, Secretary Clinton needed to continue her policy of having a close relationship with her British counterpart. Relations as a result of Clinton’s leadership as well as that of President Barack Obama allowed for the resolution of various issues between the two nations, and William Hague’s mutual desire for a similar bridging of the gap between the two countries has worked wonders when it comes to resolving outstanding issues such as foreign policy in the Middle East and regarding Russian expansionism. Even though American foreign policy has yet to resolve the fallout of the failures of the Bush administration, Hillary Clinton’s leadership has helped to improve relations with America’s most important ally, the United Kingdom.

Perhaps the most key relationships that Secretary Hillary Clinton developed was with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who she met in the 1990s when she was the Minister of Women and Youth, a position that granted her a foothold within the German government. Comparing Western European capitals to an “Old Boys Club,” Clinton says that Merkel was a fresh change in the usually patriarchal group of leaders within Europe. The United States’ cooperation with Germany under Angela Merkel was key as the European financial crisis continued to unravel in 2010 and 2011, and while Clinton praised Merkel’s leadership skills, she also gave President Obama credit for pushing through Congress an investment program to assist the Europeans.[3] This shows that despite Angela Merkel’s activities within European politics to prevent the financial crisis from taking too much of a hold, that Clinton helped to place the United States back on a path to being a full and active member in the global community for good rather than bad. This improvement, while not solely credited to Clinton, can show that her relationship with other world leaders such as Angela Merkel has helped to end the failures of the Bush administration with foreign relations with Western European nations.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were also leaders that Hillary Clinton also had a relationship with during her time as United States Secretary of State. Even though the Russian Federation is not a member of NATO or the European Union, they hold an important role within the politics of Western Europe, as Russian foreign policy may very well influence the foreign and domestic policies of the remainder of Europe. Among the central points that Clinton discusses is Boris Yeltsin’s attempts to sign a cooperation treaty with NATO, something which could have prevented the present-day issues between the Russians and the remainder of Europe. This failed, and according to Clinton, Putin’s later leadership during the 2000s allowed for Russia’s advance towards a more aggressive foreign policy. Despite this worrying trend of despotism under Vladimir Putin and his puppet government of Dmitry Medvedev between 2008 and 2012, Clinton spoke out against the tyrannical nature of Putin during a visit to Moscow in October 2009.[4] Even though Clinton did advocate for the rights of Russian citizens when it came to the freedom of the press, speech, and other rights including LGBT rights, her attempts to stave off a Russian onslaught in Europe failed, with the Russians invading Crimea and Eastern Ukraine in 2014, igniting a conflict that continues to this very day.

Throughout Hillary Clinton’s memoir Hard Choices, the former Secretary of State and candidate for President of the United States went over her record in-depth while working as America’s highest-ranking official within the State Department. Even though her record in areas such as the Middle East with regards to the Syrian Civil War and the Libyan intervention in 2011, her record working with Western European foreign ministers and leaders is untarnished. By improving relations with leaders like Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Hillary Clinton has proven to be pivotal in reversing the negative relations between the United States and Europe that were developed under the Bush administration in the 2000s. As a key advisor to United States President Barack Obama, Clinton has pushed for financial aid to European nations suffering from the worst parts of the Great Recession in 2010 and 2011 and built the coalition that destroyed Muammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya with the help of nations like the United Kingdom and France. It is clear that through these examples, Hillary Clinton is the vital leader that has rebuilt the Trans-Atlantic alliance that embodied much of the Cold War and pre-9/11 world, and has transformed the United States into a respected world power once more, and turned relationships between America and Europe back to their pre-Bush administration status.

[1] Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hard Choices (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014), 208-209.

[2] Clinton, 208.

[3] Clinton, 209-210.

[4] Clinton, 229.

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