Hillary Clinton pokes Putin on NATO expansion: ‘Too bad, Vladimir’

By Arshad Mohammed and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton needled Russian President Vladimir Putin about NATO enlargement on Tuesday, saying: “Too bad, Vladimir. You brought it on yourself.”

Returning to the State Department for the unveiling of her official portrait, Clinton also used the occasion to display distaste for the policies of Republican former President Donald Trump, who defeated her in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Clinton suggested that there may have been questions about the U.S. ability to muster support for Ukraine to resist Russia’s 2022 invasion because of Trump’s legacy of alienating allies.

“People might have doubted that because we had burned so many bridges with our allies and our friends,” she told current and former officials in the agency’s ornate Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room.

“Reinstating a foreign policy … that actually brings people to us, not pushes them away, would have been thought to be extremely difficult. And indeed it was, but it was accomplished,” she added, thanking Secretary of State Antony Blinken for “helping to restore America’s standing.”

Clinton said fellow Democrat U.S. President Joe Biden pursued many of the priorities of the Obama administration, in which she was the top U.S. diplomat and he served as vice president to Barack Obama.

“Defending democracy in Ukraine, expanding NATO – just as an aside, too bad Vladimir, you brought it on yourself,” she said, prompting laughter and applause.

“We always said, ‘people are not forced to join NATO. People choose and want to join NATO,'” she added.

Clinton described what she saw as common Biden and Obama priorities of “expanding NATO, facing down Russian aggression and managing the challenges from China.”

She joked that it had been a long time since she had seen the portrait, which depicted her gazing into the distance against the backdrop of an enlarged American flag.

“Between COVID, between not wanting to finish it during the prior administration,” she said with a meaningful glance at the audience, drawing laughter, “it’s been a while. And I am going to be probably as surprised as all of you.”

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed in Saint Paul, Minn. and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Bill Berkrot)