At a time when Washington-Moscow ties are strained, and tensions are almost at Cold War-levels, the political implications of being seen to be in cahoots with the Vladimir Putin regime are grave. It can be detrimental to political careers — especially if you’re running for the office of the President of the United States.
The New York Times last week published a report suggesting that some decisions by then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who is now running for office, could have been influenced by financial dealings between the Clinton Foundation and a Russian-Canadian company involved in the mining and supply of uranium to many countries, including the US. According to the report, ARMZ, a subsidiary of the Russian atomic energy agency Rosatom, bought stakes in Uranium One in 2009, thereby giving de facto control to the Russian company of over one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the US. In 2010, Ms Clinton, as secretary of state, was a member of the Committee on Foreign Investment, which approved Rosatom’s 51% stake in Uranium One. The Clinton Foundation has been a recipient of donations from organisations associated with these two companies from 2006. Ms Clinton’s campaign team has rubbished the allegations as a Right-wing conspiracy.
If she wins, Ms Clinton will be the first woman president. But there’s a lot that might not go in her favour. If she were to take office in January 2017, Ms Clinton, at 69, will be the second-oldest US president. That may be incongruous for a country that has about 27% of its population under the age of 30. Another factor is that the Clintons never seem to be far away from a controversy: From Whitewater to Monica Lewinsky, from Travelgate to Benghazi and now the Rosatom controversy. Journalist-author Ronald Kessler in The First Family Detail alleges that Ms Clinton is rude to her staff and that Secret Service agents consider it a ‘punishment’ to be assigned to her detail. The campaign could get a lot uglier.
But elections are a good 19 months away and fortunes could change in the meanwhile. However, this report is a setback for the Clinton camp, which, in addition to distancing itself from Obama’s unpopular policies, will have to counter a Republican camp that for the moment seems to have a spring in its step.