Clinton clarifies stance on Russia
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WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday that the Obama administration viewed Russia as a "great power," despite Vice President Joe Biden's observations that the former rival nation was saddled with deepening economic problems and backward-looking leadership.
Mrs. Clinton, seeking to take the edge off Mr. Biden's recent remarks, acknowledged that the longtime adversaries have their disagreements. "They have questions about our policies, and we have questions about some of theirs," she said in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."
But she insisted that the two countries were seeking to work out their differences and that the United States respected Moscow.
"We view Russia as a great power," she said, adding that the two countries were beginning to see the "resetting" of relations sought by President Barack Obama.
The vice president roiled relations by describing Russia as a country with a badly damaged economy, a fragile banking structure and a leadership that is "clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable."
Mr. Biden's remarks, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, came at the end of a four-day visit to Georgia and Ukraine in which he reassured the two countries of U.S. support in the face of Russian pressure. Moscow, vexed that Mr. Biden would be criticizing Russia so soon after Mr. Obama's summit meeting there, demanded a clarification of his comments.
Mrs. Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner are leading the American side in the two-day U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
Those talks, beginning today in Washington, are expected to highlight Beijing's unease about its massive holdings in federal bonds, Washington's desire to reduce China's reliance on exports and the need for both sides to reach consensus on tackling climate change.
The talks are the latest in an increasingly high-level series of meetings between the two countries this year that could have significant bearing on the global economy and international environmental policy.
A week after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke outlined strategies to stave off inflation, Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Vice Premier Wang Qishan are expected to seek assurances that the dollar will remain strong and thus protect China's holdings in U.S. treasuries.
China's foreign reserves increased in the second quarter to an all-time high of $2.13 trillion. The bump has been credited not to a rebound in exports but to the increased value of China's non-dollar holdings and more incoming investment.
As for U.S.-Russian relations, Moscow's cooperation is vital for U.S. efforts to deal with Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Arab-Israeli peace even though Russia's powers have diminished greatly since the days of the Soviet Union. Mr. Obama's trip to Moscow was intended to reduce tensions.
However, Mr. Biden suggested that Russia had a weak hand and might have no choice but to accede to U.S. wishes because of its deepening problems, including a "withering" economy.
First Published July 27, 2009 12:00 am