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“She is not to Barack Obama as Condi Rice was to George W. Bush or Madeleine Albright was to Bill Clinton, or George Shultz was to Ronald Reagan,” said Mr. Cohen, who worked as a special adviser to Ms. Rice for two years.

“That is not to say Mrs. Clinton has been a bad secretary of state,” he said, “but rather that she has not gotten a whole lot of free reign from the White House.”

“You cannot really see her imprint on foreign policy,” said Mr. Cohen, who compares her to Mrs. Albright, who engineered the Clinton administration’s policy toward the Balkans; Mr. Shultz, who reshaped how the Reagan administration thought about the use of force in the world; and Ms. Rice, who fashioned a new era of U.S. relations with Europe.

The ‘reset’

Others point to the former Soviet Union and Asia as two regions where Mrs. Clinton has attempted to push boundaries set by the White House, particularly with regard to the administration’s self-described “reset” of relations with Russia.

Although many say the “reset” has been a fiasco — boosting authoritarian President Vladimir Putin’s image while leaving Russia’s neighbors defenseless to Moscow’s sphere of influence — Mr. Volker, who also served as deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said Mrs. Clinton has worked hard at alleviating such perceptions.

The former Soviet republic of Georgia felt particularly “left out by the ‘reset’ policy on grounds that it put an emphasis on U.S. relations with Russia rather than with the most democratic former Soviet states,” Mr. Volker said.

Recognizing this, Mrs. Clinton visited the Georgian capital of Tbilisi in 2010 and “used the right words, saying Russia was ‘occupying’ part of Georgian territory and that Russia had ‘invaded’ Georgia,” he said.

“Her effort strayed from the silence that was coming from the White House,” Mr. Volker said. “She stepped out and said the right things.

“She wasn’t playing lead on this, or a proactive U.S. policy role, but on the margins she was maneuvering for good.”

He noted another example in which Mrs. Clinton gently resisted a White House-driven “groundswell” of support within NATO for reducing U.S.-controlled nuclear weapons stationed in Europe.

“Within the confines of a U.S. policy that has been really about retreating from confrontation in the world, she was able to find a few ways to show a little spine,” said Mr. Volker, who served as the permanent U.S. representative to NATO from the final year of the George W. Bush administration into the first year of the Obama administration.

Others say Mrs. Clinton missed opportunities to ask tough questions on Russia.

“She toned down her human rights rhetoric substantially,” said Ariel Cohen, a senior research fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

The “reset” has been followed by significant backsliding toward authoritarianism — as highlighted the return to the presidency by Mr. Putin, whose government has ordered the U.S. Agency for International Development to cease operations in Russia and forced Radio Free Europe to stop broadcasting in the nation.

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