US Vice Prez seeks better relations with Russia and reiterates US climate goals

Publish date: February 8, 2009

US Vice President Joseph Biden said Saturday that the United States will pursue a missile defense plan that has angered the Kremlin, but he also left open the possibility of compromise on the issue and struck a more conciliatory tone than the Bush administration on relations with Russia, world news agencies reported

“It is time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia,” Biden said in a speech at the Munich Security Conference attended by global leaders and diplomats.

The conference was a highly anticipated event where the United States was expected to give the outlines of a more yielding and cooperative approach to foreign relations – in contrast to the previous administration – and spell out cooperative goals like nuclear nonproliferation and climate change.

Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov of Russia on Sunday said that Biden’s remarks were “very positive,” Reuters reported.

The US missile intercept system, which is tentatively slated to be located in the Czech Republic and Poland, has been a source of friction ever since the Bush Administration announced it’s plans to build it.

The plan presents a stumbling block for many other urgent issues – such as nonproliferation – that the Obama administration should be pursuing with Russia.  Obama has previously dismissed the missile shield as unproven technology, and leaks from his administration last week suggested that it would soften its stance on the missile shield in favor of an 80 percent cut in the nuclear warheads each country has pointed at each other.

American has claimed the missile shield is necessary protection from a rogue strike from Iran. Russia has complained it would cripple it’s own missile capabilities.

In either case, the shield plan amounts to little more than shop talk at this point, and would do little to stop Russia – a nuclear superpower that can launch nuclear missiles from virtually anywhere in the world – from mounting an extinction-level nuclear assault.

“We will continue to develop missile defenses to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven and it is cost-effective,” Mr. Biden said during the speech. He also indicated that any such plans would be developed in concert with Europe and Russia.

He made no statements about the potential location of such a shield.

Biden also spoke on world cooperation on fighting global climate change, and expressed America’s desire to provide leadership in that arena.

"We are prepared to once again lead by example. America will act aggressively against climate change and in pursuit of energy security with like-minded nations," Biden said in remarks reported by Agencie France Press.

Biden’s choice to restate this point at the security conference makes it apparent that combating climate change is high on America’s new list of foreign policy objectives.