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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Biden Sees Pragmatism in Nuclear Cuts

WASHINGTON — Russia’s struggling economy and its leaders’ pragmatism will push it to make deals on nuclear arms reduction as Washington seeks to reset ties with Moscow, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said.

Russians “have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they’re in a situation where the world is changing before them and they’re clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable,” Biden said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Saturday.

Biden said it was economic hardships that led the Kremlin to seek a reduction in nuclear warheads.

“All of a sudden, did they have an epiphany and say, ‘Hey man, we don’t want to threaten our neighbors?’ No. They can’t sustain it,” Biden said.

“These guys aren’t absolute average-intellect ideologues who are clinging to something nobody believes in. They’re pretty pragmatic in the end,” he said.

The countries have agreed to hold the next round of talks on a deal to cut their nuclear weapons in late August or early September, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday. “The sides arranged to hold the next round of talks at the end of August or start of September in Geneva,” the statement said.

It is difficult for Russia to deal with “loss of empire,” Biden said, and the United States should not overplay its hand in dealing with Moscow.

“It is never smart to embarrass an individual or a country when they’re dealing with significant loss of face,” he said.

“It is perplexing why … Biden decided to share his interpretation of and his view on the bilateral relations,” said Sergei Prikhodko, Medvedev’s top foreign policy aide, Interfax reported.

But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday that the United States viewed Russia as a “great power,” tempering Biden’s critical remarks.

Asked about the comments as Washington seeks to improve ties with Moscow, Clinton said the United States 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.