Biden Vows Break from Bush-Era Foreign Policy; but Echoes Bush Mantra over Russia

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 8, 2009 | Go to article overview

Biden Vows Break from Bush-Era Foreign Policy; but Echoes Bush Mantra over Russia


Byline: Jon Ward, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Saturday described a dangerous drift in relations between Russia and democratic nations, and echoed the Bush-era mantra that the U.S. must seek common ground with the Kremlin.

In his speech to world leaders during the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Mr. Biden also vowed that the Obama administration is determined to set a new tone not only in Washington, but in America's relations around the world.

Mr. Biden's speech to a few hundred leaders - including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and top U.S. military officials - was aimed in part at separating the new administration from the old and was highly anticipated because the economic crisis at home has prevented President Obama from either traveling abroad or delivering a major foreign policy address.

The vice president promised a new global approach from the eight years of President George W. Bush, whose strong-willed and sometimes unilateral foreign policy at many points angered friends and foes. The message was warmly received, according to a pool reporter traveling with the vice president.

Mr. Biden said the United States can defend itself without betraying its ideals - promising that the U.S. won't use torture and that it will close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And he said the U.S. is willing to talk to Iran in an attempt to stop Tehran from gaining nuclear weapons.

We will be willing to talk to Iran and to offer a very clear choice: continue down the current course and there will be continued pressure and isolation; abandon the illicit nuclear program and your support for terrorism and there will be meaningful incentives, Mr. Biden said.

The Bush administration refused to speak to Tehran without a commitment from the Iranians to stop enriching uranium.

Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, was attending the conference, but it was unclear whether he attended Mr. Biden's speech.

Mr. Biden also rejected the notion, held by many conservatives but never specifically voiced by the Bush administration, that there is a clash of civilizations between the West and the Muslim world.

We do see a shared struggle against extremism, and we'll do everything in our collective power to help the forces of tolerance prevail, Mr. Biden said, asking for help from allies in the war in Afghanistan, and in taking some of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. …

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