With U.S.-Russian relations appearing to be at a thirty-year low the Obama Administration's attempt to "reset" relations with the former Cold War adversary has been an utter failure. Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of state while the administration was working on this reset and will likely be a candidate for the presidency in 2016, would like to distance herself from this pretty obvious, and pretty difficult to spin away, foreign policy failure.
Asked by CNN's Fareed Zakaria what happened to the reset, Hillary Clinton provided a wandering answer that flagged her own skepticism at the time and blamed it on Putin's return to power in 2011 (everyone in the world knew this was coming, not just the top men). A portion of her answer, via CNN:
So when he announced in the fall of 2011 that he would be changing positions with Medvedev, I knew that he would be more difficult to deal with. He had been always the power behind Medvedev, but he had given Medvedev a lot of independence to do exactly what you said and make the reset a success.
I saw that firsthand with respect to the primary elections in Russia, because they were filled with irregularities and Russian people poured out in the streets to protest. And I, as Secretary of State, said the Russians deserve better. They deserved elections that reflected their will.
Putin attacked me personally because he is very worried about any kind of internal dissent. He wanted to clamp down on any opposition within Russia and he wanted to provide more influence and even intimidation on his borders.
And I certainly made my views known in meetings, as well as in memos to the president. I think that what may have happened is that both the United States and Europe were really hoping for the best from Putin as a returned president. And I think we've been quickly, unfortunately, disabused of those hopes.
Mitt Romney insisted during the 2012 campaign that Russia was America's "number one geopolitical foe." Insofar as that meant Russian and U.S. interests don't always align it's kind of a no shit thing. The idea that through good will alone a relationship with a sovereign country with its own national security interests could be "reset," and by extension the idea at somehow the personage of George W. Bush was why Vladimir Putin didn't align himself with U.S. interests, is a ridiculous one and certainly not reality-based. As President Obama's first secretary of state, Clinton ought to accept her responsibility in the failure that resulted from so misunderstanding (or misrepresenting) Russian foreign policy interests.
Putin, on the other hand, denies a frosty relationship with the U.S., pointing out his country, for example, still permits the U.S. to transit through its territory to supply troops in Afghanistan—in that interview he asked who Obama was to judge another country's interventionist foreign policy, suggesting the president go be a judge somewhere if that's what he wants to do. In a separate interview, responding to Clinton comparing him to Hitler Putin suggested it was better not to respond to a woman.