The US rejects the idea of any nation claiming a sphere of influence, Vice President Joe Biden told a Washington think tank, arguing that the crisis in Ukraine was about the principles and values of the West and international order.
“We will not recognize any nation having a sphere of
influence,” the vice president said during a speech at the
Brookings Institution on Wednesday. It remained unclear whether
the remark applied to US influence around the globe, or referred
only to Russia, China and other countries.
“We will not recognize any sphere of influence.” VP Biden
speaking at Brookings about Obama policy towards Russia and
— Martin Indyk (@Martin_Indyk) May
Asked by AP diplomatic correspondent Matt Lee to clarify the
remark, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke did not quite know
“What we see when we look around the world are places where
we desire to improve our contacts with countries,” Rathke
said, acknowledging that other countries might do the same.
“What is important is that those relations develop on the
basis of mutual interest, mutual respect, without coercion, and
to the benefit of the peoples of the countries involved.”
“I don’t really think the description of that as a ‘sphere of
influence’ is particularly apt in those kinds of cases,”
Biden described the conflict in Ukraine as crucial to the future
of NATO, the EU and the West in general, something that called
for leadership “the kind our parents and grandparents’
Allowing the Kremlin to establish a “fiefdom” in Ukraine, he
said, would only fan the flames of Russian ambition.
Biden blamed any humanitarian issues in Ukraine on Russia,
reiterating US support for the government in Kiev. He has
traveled to Ukraine three times over the past year, he said, and
talks to President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk about
once a week, on average.
One day Ukraine will serve as an example to Russians across the
— Martin Indyk (@Martin_Indyk) May
According to the vice president, the US has provided $470 million
to Kiev in economic assistance, not counting the billions in loan
guarantees if Kiev “continues on the path of reforms”
they promised to deliver.
The US needs a Ukraine that “cannot be bribed, coerced or
intimidated,” Biden said, one that would someday serve as an
example to Russians of what Western values and institutions can
In the Vice President’s narrative, the US tried to be a friend to
Russia and bring it into the “world of responsible
nations” through institutions such as the World Trade
Organization and the NATO-Russia Partnership. He said that
process was going well between 2009 and 2012, during the Medvedev
presidency, but blamed President Vladimir Putin for setting
Russia on a different course since.
— Brookings (@BrookingsInst) May
However, Biden also said that all politics was personal, and that
the US would continue working with the Russian leadership
wherever Moscow’s help could benefit US interests, citing the
example of nuclear talks with Iran.
“We’re not looking for regime change, or any fundamental
alteration of circumstances inside Russia,” Biden said.
“We’re looking for [Putin] to, in our view, act
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addressed the Center for Strategic and
International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, where he accused
Russia of “nuclear saber-rattling” he called
“unjustified, destabilizing and dangerous.”
“Russia is a global actor that is asserting its military
power,” Stoltenberg said. “We regret that Russia is
taking this course. Because when might becomes right, the
consequences are grave.”
The remarks come just two weeks after Secretary of State John
Kerry met with his Russian counterpart in Sochi and urged the leadership in Kiev to
“think twice” before re-igniting hostilities, frozen by
a ceasefire arranged in February at the Belorussian capital of
Forces loyal to the government in Kiev have since resumed
artillery attacks on civilians in the Donetsk and Lugansk
regions, in territories that have refused to recognize their
authority since May 2014.
State Department’s Rathke insisted that “overwhelming
majority of the ceasefire violations” were committed by
“Russian [sic] and separatist forces,” but that he was
“not familiar” with reports of civilians killed by