WikiLeaks reveals how Clinton sizes up leaders

NEW YORK • Addressing a Goldman Sachs event in 2013, in one of the speeches that WikiLeaks published over the weekend, Mrs Hillary Clinton gave practical answers to questions.

The three hacked speeches from 2013 that WikiLeaks published last Saturday help to explain how Mrs Clinton approaches some of the world's knottiest problems.

They are a reminder of the cold-eyed way the United States Democratic presidential nominee often assesses her most vexing opponents when the TV cameras are not on.

By the time she had left office as secretary of state that year, she had met and assessed two of the three world leaders who were determined, most prominently, to challenge the US: President Xi Jinping of China, whom she clearly admires; President Vladimir Putin of Russia, whom she clearly detests; and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose determination to build a nuclear weapon and missiles that could "reach Hawaii and the West Coast, theoretically" poses a risk "we cannot abide", she said.

In the talks, Mrs Clinton was often more analytic than prescriptive, describing her perceptions of individual leaders and the domestic politics and foreign threats they face. In that regard, her approach is quite different from that of Republican rival Donald Trump.

In two interviews on foreign policy with The New York Times, Mr Trump moved directly to his plans of action: withdrawing troops from Europe and Asia if allies do not pay their share, for example.

While Mr Trump often talks in terms of striking deals, Mrs Clinton talks in terms of alliance-building. She once posed a question about China to an Australian leader: "How do you deal toughly with your banker?"

In the Goldman transcript, she suggested that she had answered her own question when sparring with China over its claims in the South China Sea.

"I made the point at one point in the argument that... you know, the United States should claim all of the Pacific. We liberated it, we defended it. We have as much claim to all of the Pacific. And, you know, my counterpart sat up very straight and goes, 'Well, you can't do that'."

Mrs Clinton also segued into an evaluation of Mr Xi, whom she noted had consolidated power in a way his predecessor never did, but had quickly travelled to places like Russia and Africa to assuage "doubts about Chinese practices".

"So he's someone who you at least have the impression is a more worldly, somewhat more experienced politician," she said.

In North Korea, the situation has worsened more drastically. She summarised the Chinese message to the North Koreans this way: "We don't care if you occasionally shoot off a missile. That's good.

"That upsets the Americans and causes them heartburn, but you can't keep going down a path that is unpredictable."

That, of course, is exactly the path they have gone down.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2016, with the headline 'WikiLeaks reveals how Clinton sizes up leaders'. Print Edition | Subscribe