Hillary Clinton has never been afraid to call out Vladimir Putin, but she never expected Russia’s vengeance to be so damaging.
In January 2016 while debating another candidate for the Democrats’ presidential race, Bernie Sanders, Ms Clinton was asked about her relationship with Mr Putin.
“It’s interesting. We’ve had some very tough dealings with one another,” she said with a little smile.
That was an understatement.
For the last seven years, Ms Clinton and Mr Putin have been in a tit-for-tat battle of words, with their language sometimes becoming quite heated.
The two first encountered each other in an official capacity while Ms Clinton was serving as secretary of state, and Mr Putin was taking some time off from being president of Russia by being prime minister of Russia.
At the time, life was good for Mr Putin.
Hillary Clinton: Putin is arrogant and tough – cnn
Though he was frustrated by being constitutionally relegated to the number two job behind his sidekick Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian people were generally supportive of him and he felt like a man on top.
When Ms Clinton and Mr Putin met, she thought he was trying to establish dominance and she called it “manspreading”.
She said he took her into his inner sanctum and showed her a map of the places he was intending to tag polar bears. He asked her to extend an invitation to her husband Bill to come along.
When she jokingly offering to go instead, Mr Putin was apparently unimpressed.
Animosity over Russian elections
But things really heated up while Mr Putin was attempting to transition back into the presidency in 2011-2012.
The global financial crisis had damaged Russia’s economy, and Mr Putin’s party, United Russia, was losing popularity.
Following a parliamentary election, which Mr Putin’s party won with fewer than 50 per cent of votes, protests broke out across the country against the result.
Ms Clinton was vocal in her concerns about the election.
“The OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe), for example, cites election day attempts to stuff ballot boxes, manipulate voter lists and other troubling practices,” she said.
Mr Putin, refusing to admit his own popularity was under threat, said the US State Department and its secretary Ms Clinton were interfering in his affairs, stirring up protests against him.
“Our partners shake us from time to time so that we don’t forget who owns this planet,” he said.
“So that we know they have methods of pressure and influence on our country from within.”
This was only the beginning of the animosity between the two.
‘Tough guy with a thin skin’
In 2012 the US government approved the Magnitsky Act, a bill of sanctions against Russian entities seen to be involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky.
Magnitsky was a private lawyer who was investigating corruption in the Russian system for an American businessman named Bill Browder.
The sanctions bill enraged Mr Putin.
Mr Browder suspects that some of Mr Putin’s own money, and money belonging to Mr Putin’s rich allies, was restricted by the bill.
Mr Putin called it an “unfriendly act” and he responded by banning American couples from adopting Russian children.
Ms Clinton was not a strong proponent of the Magnitsky Act, but she was in charge of the State Department when it was instituted.
She left the State Department in 2013, but continued to criticise Mr Putin.
Over the years she has said that Mr Putin “doesn’t have a soul”, she called him a “tough guy with a thin skin”, and she compared his annexation of Crimea in 2014 to the actions of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.
She also supported the crippling economic sanctions slapped on Russia in the wake of that annexation.
A thorn in his side
For the last 10 years, just about every foreign policy Mr Putin has tried to enact, from Europe to the Middle-East, Ms Clinton has vocally opposed.
She was a thorn in his side, who looked likely to become the most powerful person in the world if she was elected US president in 2016.
Mr Putin learned a lesson from his 2014 action in Crimea: acting like an international tough guy makes him more popular at home.
Despite more international sanctions, which triggered another financial crisis, Mr Putin was seen as standing up for the motherland.
Since then, he has been more and more inclined to again establish Russia as a dominant world power, and decrease the amount of influence the United States and European Union have over global geopolitics.
And there was no better way of making a statement of Russian power than attacking the woman who had been standing in his way for so long.
According to the US intelligence agencies and politicians on both sides of the US political scene, Mr Putin rolled out the ultimate revenge in 2015 and 2016.
He hacked emails, spread disinformation and cast Ms Clinton as a careless, corrupt villain.
Ms Clinton may always regret her decision to spar with Mr Putin.
The Election Clash That Fueled Putin’s Ire Against Clinton | “Putin’s Revenge” | FRONTLINE PBS