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Biden to assess Russia reset, visit Finland and Moldova

Biden to assess Russia reset, visit Finland and Moldova

Vice President Biden plans to "take stock" of the reset in relations between the United States and Russia that began after President Obama's January 2009 inauguration, and he will also visit Finland and become the first U.S. vice president to visit Moldova during his March 7-11 trip to Europe.

Tony Blinken, a Biden adviser, said March 4 that two years after the "reset" in the U.S.-Russia relationship, "we can see the practical and important results," such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) cutting the number of nuclear weapons, and deeper bilateral collaboration on Afghanistan and against Iran and North Korea's nuclear activities.

"This trip, for the vice president, is an opportunity to take stock of the reset, what we've achieved and where we hope to go next," Blinken said, speaking to reporters via teleconference.

Biden will likely discuss bilateral cooperation on missile defense with Russian leaders, as well as Russia's efforts to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) - a development "we strongly support," Blinken said.

Biden will also likely express the U.S. desire to strengthen commercial ties with Russia, which "are growing but still far short of where they could be," and he plans to meet with leaders from Russia's civil society groups, political opposition and business community, Blinken said.

Mike McFaul, the National Security Council's senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs, said Russia's accession to the WTO and missile defense cooperation are "our two top priority issues for 2011."

The Obama administration has worked closely with Russia on the WTO "to try to facilitate, first, getting done the things we needed to do in a bilateral way, which we've mostly accomplished. And second, now, to help them in the multilateral process so that they can meet their goal of joining WTO this year," McFaul said, adding, "We remain firmly committed to that."

With missile defense, the United States and Russia are "on the verge of trying to take an issue that used to be extremely contentious" and will "see if we can make this an area of cooperation." Biden's visit will be "an important marker" to see where the two countries are on the issue, McFaul said.

The Obama administration hopes there will be an agreement on missile defense in 2011. "We believe that without some kind of cooperation on missile defense, it'll be difficult for us to get on to the other negotiations about reducing strategic nuclear weapons further and nonstrategic weapons that are in Europe," McFaul said.

Blinken said that in Finland, the vice president will be discussing the NATO mission in Afghanistan, as well as the development of environmental and other innovative technologies.

In Moldova, Biden will become "the first U.S. vice president or president to visit Moldova," Blinken said. His visit coincides with the 20th anniversary of the country's independence.

Blinken said the vice president will tell Moldovan officials that the United States stands behind them as they undertake reforms called for by Moldova's ruling Alliance for European Integration coalition, and he will express support for a resolution of the Transnistrian conflict "that respects Moldova's sovereignty and territorial integrity."


 Author: Stephen Kaufman


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