(Host) After hearing some recent remarks by Vice-President Joe Biden,
commentator Bill Mares is wondering if a split in the administration is
developing over our policies toward Russia.
(MARES) Last month, President Obama called for a "re-set" to our tattered relations with Russia.But then – in a Wall Street Journal interview – Vice-president Joseph Biden was as hawkish and critical of the Russians as Dick Cheney ever was. Among other things, he said – quote – "The Russians 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."
He went on: "It’s in their overwhelming military interest to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. All of a sudden, did they have an epiphany and say, ‘Hey man, we don’t want to threaten our neighbors?’ No. They can’t sustain it. Does that mean they won’t do something stupid? No."
The Wall Street Journal editors loved it, but the Russians were incensed by its hectoring, patronizing tone.
I wondered why Biden would say such things. Perhaps he and Obama are doing some king of good cop/bad cop routine. Or maybe the administration has decided that our positions are irredeemably opposed and we neither need nor expect Russian cooperation on a variety of foreign policy issues?
Or, maybe, since Biden has long been known for his runaway tongue, this was just "Ole Joe Biden running his mouth again. No one should take him seriously."
Well, he is the vice-president and the Russians do take remarks like this quite seriously. As an autocratic, nuclear-armed state with a thousand year history of of geo-political paranoia, it’s understandable that they should wonder "who is speaking…"
The last I knew, we wanted their their help to restrain North Korea from further nuclear threats, to reduce nuclear weapons, to improve supplies to Afghanistan, to prevent Iran from getting a bomb and for moderating the Palestine-Israel conflict – all laudable objectives.
But at the same time, we have kept pushing NATO eastward right into Ukraine and Georgia – virtually Russia’s backyard. We have pushed for an anti-missile system in Eastern Europe, against Iran, also into what Russia calls its historic sphere of influence.
We deny that sphere of influence theory. But unfortunately, the Russians have a lot more ways to pressure us than we do them. Examples include a veto in the Security Council, naval exercises in the Caribbean, lack of help with Iran and North Korea, and increased pressure on the natural gas pipelines to Europe. I think (and fervently hope ) that Biden himself may have recognized this when he said later in the WSJ interview: "It is never smart to embarrass an individual or a country when they’re dealing with significant loss of face. My dad used to put it another way: Never put another man in a corner where the only way out is over you. It just is not smart."