Analysis of Joe Biden’s and Hillary Clinton’s recent statements concerning Russia.

“Weak Russia will bow to the United States” and “We see Russia as a great power.” The first phrase belongs to US Vice President Joe Biden, the second to State Secretary Hillary Clinton. They were uttered within but a couple of days.

Interviewed for Meet the Press programme, Clinton got down to the subject of Russia after having answered questions about North Korea and Iran. The host quoted some excerpts from Biden’s interview with the Wall Street Journal and asked Clinton whether Biden had been talking in the name of the US President and if this message was predominant in the US-Russian relations.

Biden said that it had been Biden and nobody else who suggested a reset of the relations with Russia in his speech in Munich. “We know that it won’t be easy and that it will take time. It will also take trust,” Clinton said. “We want what the President talked about during the recent Moscow summit. We want a strong, peaceful, and prosperous Russia.” Clinton then enumerated what the United States and Russia were already doing together (reduction of nuclear potentials, war on extremism, situation with the DPRK and Iran) and that was when she mentioned “a great power”. She reproached Biden for having painted Russia’s economic standing in bleak colors. “Every country faces challenges, these days,” she said. “We face challenges and so does Russia… The Russians know that we retain some questions concerning certain elements of their policy, just as they retain questions concerning aspects of our policy.”


Alexander Rahr (German Foreign Policy Council): Matter of fact, Biden’s speech before the parliament of Georgia was much more interesting than the interview with the Wall Street Journal. The speech where US Vice President said how he had been with Mikhail Saakashvili in Tbilisi during the last year war in South Ossetia. The impression is that Biden is playing some game of his own – so greatly does his speech differ from what Obama’s Administration is saying these days. That Clinton tied to correct him only shows that Cheney’s eight years in the office of the US Vice President taught the latter to play solo. By and large, however, Biden’s fairly stiff speech before the Georgian parliament will have no consequences. The United States has chosen partnership with Russia. America needs Russia these days more than it ever did over the last two decades. I wouldn’t pay attention to Biden’s words. It may have been a reminder to Russia that the United States did not want to lose face. Still, I think that Biden cut it too far.

Stanislav Belkovsky (National Strategy Institute): Clinton speaks to Moscow and Biden to Washington’s traditional allies. There is no controversy here that I detect. Clinton and Biden are focused on different aspects of one and the same model. Obama’s appearance in the White House changed the whole American concept of global domination. The US President is no longer the leader who forces the principles of democracy on his adversaries. These days, the US President is presented as a global leader, one who is beyond civilizational differences. On the other hand, the United States cannot just abandon its allies and forget all about them. It has to keep up pretences and show that resets or not, friends remain friends and that America stands by them. That’s what Biden is for. To put it in free enterprise parlance, Obama and Biden operate in different segments of the market but promote one and the same commodity all the same. And Clinton is there to smooth thing out whenever necessary.