Tue, Jul 28, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Clinton downplays remarks on Russia by vice president

REUTERS AND AP , WASHINGTON

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday the US viewed Russia as a “great power,” tempering recent remarks about Moscow by US Vice President Joe Biden.

In an interview in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, Biden spoke of Russia’s “shrinking population base” and said it had a “withering economy” that would push it to make deals on nuclear arms reductions.

He gave the interview after visiting Ukraine and Georgia, where he reiterated US support for the two former Soviet republics, which are at loggerheads with Moscow.

Asked about Biden’s comments as the Obama administration seeks to improve ties with Moscow, Clinton said the US wanted a strong, peaceful and prosperous Russia.

“There is an enormous amount of hard work being done and we view Russia as a great power. Now every country faces challenges. We have our challenges; Russia faces their challenges,” she said.

PRAISE, CRITICISM

In her first meeting with Russia’s foreign minister earlier this year, Clinton symbolically hit a reset button with him to stress US determination to turn around a relationship that soured during the administration of former US president George W. Bush.

While praising Russia for its help in curbing the nuclear ambitions of both North Korea and Iran, Clinton repeated criticism leveled by Biden that Moscow could not impose its will on former Soviet states.

“That is an attitude and a policy that we reject. We also are making it very clear that any nation in Eastern Europe that used to be part of the Soviet Union has a right ... to choose whatever alliance they want to join,” she said.

Russia, which has said it was perplexed by Biden’s comments, strongly opposes bids by former Soviet states Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO.

“If Ukraine and Georgia some day are eligible to join NATO, that should be up to them,” Clinton said.

WHITE HOUSE?

In related news, Clinton was vague recently when asked about whether she would try another run at the White House.

However, she seemed to go further in an interview on Sunday than she had previously in shutting the door to another presidential campaign.

“Well, you know, I say no, never, you know, not at all. I don’t know what, what else to say,” Clinton said on NBC television’s Meet the Press after host David Gregory noted that she left some wiggle room in an interview last week in Thailand.

But then Gregory followed up by asking: “Are you saying you wouldn’t entertain another run?”

Clinton’s response was less clear: “I have absolutely no belief in my mind that that is going to happen, that I have any interest in it happening. You know, as I said, I, I am so focused on what I’m doing.”

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