September 01, 2009

After I Leave, I'll Send You a Cup of Joe

Less than a month after U.S. President Barack Obama showered Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with smiles and delivered an inspiring speech to graduates of a Moscow university, Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Georgia and Ukraine and delivered a harsh assessment of Russia’s place in the world, a realpolitik shadow cast by Obama’s sunshine.

“It’s a very difficult thing to deal with, loss of empire,” Biden said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.  “This country, Russia, is in a very different circumstance than it has been at any time in the last 40 years, or longer.” Russia’s population is dying, its economy is flailing, and its leaders are “clinging to something in the past,” Biden said, adding that the future looks very bleak indeed for Russia.

Biden’s interview immediately raised Kremlin hackles. “The question that arises is: who sets the foreign policy of the U.S.—the president or members of his team?” asked Russian presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko, who added that Moscow’s current financial woes, as well as those of the rest of the world, are the result of “short-sighted and even adventurist economic measures in the U.S. during the presidency of George Bush Jr.”

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