Biden: Russia's 'Withering' Economy Will Force Change

Published July 24, 2009

| FoxNews.com

Vice President Joe Biden is optimistic that Russia will warm to the West, given that its economy is "withering," he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

The country's economic problems could force it to open up to the West on a range of issues, including loosening its grip on former Soviet bloc nations and reducing its stockpile of nuclear weapons, Biden said in pointed remarks to the newspaper following his trip to the region.

"Russia has to make some very difficult, calculated decisions," 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."

The United States' often tense relationship with Russia has been among the issues that have faced the Obama administration this year, as the White House seeks the country's help in applying pressure on North Korea and Iran, both potential nuclear threats.

Biden had traveled this week to Ukraine and Georgia, telling Georgian officials in a speech Thursday that Washington stands behind them a year after their army was routed in a war with neighboring Russia.

The war last August came as Georgia sought to regain control of South Ossetia, one of two separatist regions backed by Moscow. Since then, Russia has recognized the two Georgian territories as independent nations and sent troops to defend them.

"I come here on behalf of the United States with a simple, straightforward message: We, the United States, stand by you on your journey to a secure, free and democratic, and once again united, Georgia," Biden said.

Biden's speech came toward the end of a two-day visit to this small country in the South Caucasus, a staunch U.S. ally since the 2003 Rose Revolution that brought President Mikhail Saakashvili to power.

In Moscow, the government said it would not stand by while Georgia was resupplied with weapons.

"We will continue inhibiting rearmament of the Saakashvili regime and are taking concrete measures for this," Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Biden's latest comments about Russia come just weeks after President Obama attended a high-profile summit in Moscow, saying the U.S. seeks a "strong, peaceful and prosperous Russia."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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