DAVOS – Within days of Hillary Clinton’s confirmation as secretary of state, her husband already appears to be applying his skills and connections in the service of the new administration’s diplomacy.
Upon arriving here on Wednesday afternoon, he conducted a series of quiet meetings with foreign leaders that culminated in an intense late-night discussion with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The two former presidents met at a Sheraton hotel where Putin held a private party, following an early evening reception at a local museum hosted by Clinton.
Putin greeted Clinton cordially as “our good friend” as they raised glasses of vodka and then listened to a pianist pound out “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” When the musical entertainment concluded, they moved to a table in a separate room with access strictly controlled by Secret Service and Russian security agents. Flanked by aides and an interpreter, the two men talked for nearly 90 minutes before they rose and walked out together for a few pictures with partygoers and members of Clinton’s entourage.
Neither man commented on the substance of their discussions, and there was no indication that Clinton was carrying a particular message to the Russian leader. But the Obama administration has signaled its intention to seek greater Russian cooperation on issues such as the Iranian nuclear program. And Putin’s public remarks at the World Economic Forum yesterday were encouraging if vague as he called for more constructive relations between Moscow and the West.
As for Clinton, it is clear that he can pursue significant tasks for U.S. diplomacy — and his reception by world leaders in Davos shows that he will continue to be an active figure on the international stage.