Hillary Clinton needled Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, about Nato enlargement by saying: “Too bad, Vladimir. You brought it on yourself.”
Returning to the State Department for the unveiling of her official portrait, Mrs Clinton also used the occasion to display distaste for the policies of Donald Trump, the Republican former president, who defeated her in the 2016 United States presidential election.
Mrs Clinton, the former US secretary of state, suggested that people might have questioned to US’s ability to muster support for Ukraine because of Trump’s legacy of alienating allies.
“People might have doubted that because we had burned so many bridges with our allies and our friends,” she told current and former officials in the agency’s ornate Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room.
“Reinstating a foreign policy ... that actually brings people to us, not pushes them away, would have been thought to be extremely difficult. And indeed it was, but it was accomplished,” she added, thanking Antony Blinken, the current secretary of state, for “helping to restore America’s standing”.
Mrs Clinton said Joe Biden, the current US president, pursued many of the priorities of the Obama administration, in which she was the top US diplomat and he served as vice-president.
“Defending democracy in Ukraine, expanding Nato – just as an aside, too bad Vladimir, you brought it on yourself,” she said, prompting laughter and applause.
“We always said: People are not forced to join Nato. People choose and want to join Nato,” she added.
She joked that it had been a long time since she had seen the portrait, which depicted her gazing into the distance against the backdrop of an enlarged American flag.
“Between Covid, between not wanting to finish it during the prior administration,” she said with a meaningful glance at the audience, drawing laughter.
“It’s been a while. And I am going to be, probably, as surprised as all of you.”