Biden to Reassure Allies In Ukraine and Georgia
- By Ross Colvin
- Jul. 20 2009 00:00
WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden travels to Georgia and Ukraine starting Monday to reassure the two U.S. allies that President Barack Obama’s administration has not abandoned them in its efforts to “reset” ties with Russia.
Biden’s trip comes just two weeks after Obama visited Moscow for talks with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin aimed at improving ties that hit a post-Cold War low under former President George W. Bush.
“Our efforts to reset relations with Russia will not come at the expense of any other countries,” Biden’s national security adviser, Tony Blinken, said Friday.
Russia regards the former Soviet states as part of its sphere of influence, a view Obama has rejected. Moscow has also resisted proposals — led by the Bush administration — to bring the countries into NATO.
Blinken stressed that the message of continued U.S. support to Ukraine and Georgia was not a blank check and Biden would press them to carry out economic and democratic reforms.
The International Monetary Fund last month called on Ukraine’s leaders to agree on restructuring the country’s ailing state energy firm, Naftogaz.
A European Union official said Friday that Ukraine had promised to raise household gas prices and enforce payment of bills to strengthen Naftogaz’s finances
The IMF and other international institutions are discussing financing for Ukraine to pay for Russian gas. In January a dispute over payments led Moscow to turn off supplies to Ukraine of Russian gas destined for Europe for two weeks.
“Our hope is these leaders will live up to the promise of the revolution and make the hard choices to work together,” Blinken said, referring to the Orange Revolution rallies that swept President Viktor Yushchenko to power.
He said the Obama administration was concerned about the “political paralysis” in Kiev that has seen constant bickering between Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Biden’s trip to Georgia comes nearly a year since his last visit, during Russia’s invasion to thwart an assault by Tbilisi to try to reestablish control over its breakaway region of South Ossetia.
On the politically thorny issue of NATO membership, Blinken said it was up to Ukraine and Georgia to decide whether they wanted to join the alliance.