Vice President Joe Biden: Like people the world over,

Russians wonder how seriously to take his comments.



Moskovskij Komsomolets, Russia

Russians Ask: Does Joe Biden Really Speak for Obama?


"With regard to Biden's remarks, he's known as a man, roughly speaking and to put it bluntly, with a loose tongue."


-- Fyodor Lukyanov, chief editor of Russia in Global Affairs


By Andrew Yashlavsky


Translated By Yekaterina Blinova


July 28, 2009


Russia - Moskovskij Komsomolets - Original Article (Russian)

"A weakened Russia will bend to the United States" and "We view Russia as a great power." The first sentence belongs to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. The second, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The time difference between when they were made is merely a couple of days.


[Editor's Note: The statement, "A weakened Russia will bend to the United States" is actually a Wall Street Journal headline paraphrasing the actual comments of Vice President Biden.]


In the Meet the Press interview with the head of American diplomacy [watch below], the subject of Russia didn't come up right away. Clinton first responded to questions about North Korea and Iran. Russia came up only toward the middle of the conversation. The host quoted a passage of Joe Biden's interview with The Wall Street Journal and asked his guest: "Is he speaking for the president, and is the message essentially that the U.S. now has the upper hand when it's dealing with Russia?"


The Secretary of State recalled that after Obama's inauguration, Joe Biden was the first in the administration to publicly declare in his Munich speech that, "we wanted to reset our relationship with Russia. And we know that that's not easily done. It takes time, it takes trust building. And we want what the president called for during his recent Moscow summit.  We want a strong, peaceful and prosperous Russia." Further, Clinton mentioned the tremendous work taking place between Russia and the United States (reducing their nuclear arsenals, fighting extremism, the situation surrounding North Korea and Iran). It was then that she mentioned "the great power." She then threw a bit of a stone in Biden's direction, who has described the horrors of Russia's economic situation.


"Now, every country faces challenges. You know, we have our challenges, Russia has their challenges and the Russians know that, you know, we have continuing questions about some of their policies, and they have continuing questions about some of ours."


We shouldn't see the interview as Clinton "telling off" Biden. Rather, it is an adjustment. And there's also the question of whose words, Clinton's or Biden's, are more sincere. But what's behind this adjustment?


Perhaps the U.S. administration get the feeling that Vice President Biden had spoken a bit of nonsense and decided, given the sensitivity of the Kremlin, to smooth out some of the rough edges. Particularly since Biden's interview and the Russians reaction that followed, had many observers talking seriously of how the "reset" in relations was at risk. Or it could be an attempt by Mrs. Clinton to assert herself in the area of American diplomacy. Many believe that the vice president, who previously served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has pushed the State Department chief to the margins of U.S. foreign policy. And in light of this, it would seem completely logical for Clinton to "correct" Biden. One might even suppose that if Biden had had offered a tribute to Moscow, Clinton would erupt with a Russia critique.





Alexander Rahr, program director for Russia and Eurasia at the German Council on Foreign Relations:


Far more interesting than the [Wall Street Journal] interview, was Biden's speech to the Georgian parliament, when the vice president mentioned that during last year's war in South Ossetia, he was sitting in Tbilisi with Saakashvili. There's a sense that Biden's playing his own game - because his speech was so radically different from recent Obama Administration statements. And the fact that Hillary Clinton has corrected his remarks shows that the office of the Vice President of the United States, after eight years of Cheney's vice presidency, has begun to play an independent game. In fact, Biden's same tough speech to the Georgian parliament has had no effect. The United States has chosen partnership with Russia. More than at any time in the past 20 years, America needs Russia. I wouldn't pay any more attention to Biden's comments. Perhaps this is a reminder to Russia that America doesn't want to lose face. But I think Biden got his signals crossed womewhere.



Fyodor Lukyanov, chief editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs:


Everyone has their own idea of what the U.S. position is, because the American system is quite complex. Even with the great power and authority the president holds, he's not an emperor and operates on quite a variety of levels - the main expression of which is the Congress. The U.S. Congress synthesizes different groups - ethnic, regional, industrial and others. In this sense, no U.S. president can make a decision and simply say - "that's it." This is only the beginning of a complicated process, and Obama must spend his political capital in order to fully realize it.


With regard to Biden's remarks, he's known as a man, roughly speaking and to put it bluntly, with a loose tongue. He says a lot of things that the administration wished he wouldn't. These remarks show the absence of a single line in America's policy with regard to Russia. Obama's visit was one of reconnaissance, from which he drew his conclusions, and someone else [Biden] - his own. I would focus more on Hillary Clinton's views, but it's worth remembering that Biden is not alone in his assessment.


Stanislav Belkovsky, director of the National Strategy Institute:


Clinton expressed Obama's position toward Moscow, and Biden - a position directed at the traditional allies of Washington. There's no contradiction. They are merely advertizing different aspects of the same model. After Obama arrived, the doctrine of American global domination changed. The U.S. president ceased being a leader of the West who brings the idea of democracy to its adversaries with fire and sword. Now the United States president is positioning himself as a leader of the entire world, standing outside civilizational differences. But at the same time, America cannot turn its back on its traditional friends. They have an obligation to show that "reset" or not, friends remain friends, and America wont trade them in for anyone. To do this, they need Biden. Speaking in the language of marketing, Biden and Obama are working on different demographics of the market, promoting the same goods. Hillary Clinton mediates the incongruities.













































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US July 31, 8:25pm]