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Biden in Moscow for talks but Libya may steal the show

Arab world turmoil could overshadow Vice President Biden's visit to Moscow. Medvedev is opposed establishing a no-fly zone in Libya.

By Correspondent / March 9, 2011

Vice President of the United States Joe Biden (r.) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev greet each other at the Gorky presidential residence outside Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, March 9. The talks in Moscow are expected to focus on missile defense cooperation and Russia's efforts to join the World Trade Organization.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

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Moscow

Vice President Joe Biden's two-day trip to Russia was planned as a routine temperature-taking exercise to set the stage for a possible Obama-Medvedev summit this summer here.

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But Mideast turmoil and deliberations over a no-fly zone in Libya could overshadow issues like missile defense and Russia's hopes of joining the World Trade Organization as Mr. Biden meets with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin throughout the next two days.

Libya is on the agenda when Biden and Mr. Medvedev meet, and Russia's opposition to a no-fly zone will likely be a point of discussion. While the US has expressed reservations about imposing a no-fly zone, Russia has been adamant in its opposition.

Still, Russia has enjoyed some benefit from the Mideast upheavals, especially unrest in Libya, which is a major oil exporter. As oil prices passed $100 a barrel on news of the Arab revolts, Russia has seen profits climb. At a televised meeting with Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin last week, a visibly pleased Putin announced that Russian "budget revenues have become considerable" as a result of the conflict.

To be sure, the Kremlin appears to prefer the status quo in the Arab world. It has displayed deep suspicion of the popular movements that aim to unseat authoritarian regimes. Mr. Putin worried aloud recently that the revolutionary contagion could spread to Russia's own 20 percent Muslim minority, especially the insurgency-plagued northern Caucasus.

"Regardless of the calming theories that radical groups coming to power in northern Africa is unlikely, if it happens it cannot but spread to other areas of the world, including the north Caucasus," he said.

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