Whoa! Were all of these remarks cleared with the boss? -- Biden Says Weakened Russia Will Bend to U.S.
Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview that Russia's economy is "withering," and suggested the trend will force the country to make accommodations to the West on a wide range of national-security issues, including loosening its grip on former Soviet republics and shrinking its vast nuclear arsenal.
Mr. Biden said he believes Russia's economic problems are part of a series of developments that have contributed to a significant rethinking by Moscow of its international self-interest. The geographical proximity of the emerging nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea is also likely to make Russia more cooperative with the U.S. in blocking their growth, he said.
But in the interview, at the end of a four-day trip to Ukraine and Georgia, Mr. Biden said domestic troubles are the most important factor driving Russia's new global outlook. "I think we vastly underestimate the hand that we hold," he said.
"Russia has to make some very difficult, calculated decisions," Mr. Biden said. "They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they're in a situation where the world is changing before them and they're clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable."
Mr. Biden's remarks were the most pointed to date by a senior administration official on why the Obama administration believes its "reset" with Russia is likely to succeed, while previous efforts to engage Moscow by the Clinton and Bush administrations ended with little progress.
The remarks also are among the administration's most critical of Russia's current role in the world, and come just weeks after President Barack Obama insisted that the U.S. seeks a "strong, peaceful and prosperous Russia" in an address at his high-profile July summit in Moscow with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Natalya Timakova, a spokeswoman for Mr. Medvedev, declined to comment on Mr. Biden's remarks. Ms. Timakova acknowledged that the Russian government is currently looking at many of the issues he raised -- including economic challenges, the banking sector and the country's shrinking population.