Chuck Hagel, the former U.S. senator and defense secretary under President Barack Obama, has said that the next U.S. president will have to reset relations with Russia and fix an “unstable” American political system that is sparking mockery and fear around the world.
In an exclusive interview with Handelsblatt Global, Mr. Hagel said it would take leadership and “imagination” from the next U.S. president to find ways to bridge the gap with Russia and move forward on a whole host of intractable global conflicts both in the Middle East – most notably Syria – and in Ukraine.
“I think one of the priorities of the next president is going to have to be a real reset with Russia. Not a button, but a real reset,” he told Handelsblatt Global. “It must incorporate and encompass all of the issues, and it’s going to have to be president to president.”
Mr. Hagel said anti-Russian sentiment in the United States is at its worst level since the Cold War – and likewise anti-American sentiment on the Russian side – but that distrust should never stop the two sides from talking to iron out their differences.
The former Republican senator from Nebraska would not be drawn on who he would be voting for in the 2016 election on Tuesday, but offered a stinging critique of the election campaign.
“I think they’ve both debased our system. I think we have become mocked around the world,” he said. “When we’re not being mocked, the rest of the world is looking at us with fright. When you’ve got an unstable America – an unsure, an unsteady America – it doesn’t make the world safer,” Mr. Hagel added.