Biden: No Russian 'sphere of influence'

July 22, 2009 at 9:43 AM
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KIEV, Ukraine, July 22 (UPI) -- The United States recognizes no Russian "sphere of influence" over Ukraine, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday in Kiev.

Speaking at the Ukraine House exhibition center, Biden countered claims made by Russia after its war with Georgia last year that it has a zone of influence among over former Soviet republics such as Georgia and Ukraine, saying, "We recognize no sphere of influence, or no ability of any other nation to veto the choices an independent nation makes as to with whom and under what conditions they will associate."

Ukraine's moves to join NATO or the European Union won't be dictated by the United States, he said, adding, "We recognize that how far and how fast to proceed on your choices is, again, a uniquely Ukrainian choice -- it is not ours."

Biden also urged bickering pro- and anti-Moscow Ukrainian factions to settle their differences and allow the country to realize the promise of its 2004 Orange Revolution, especially during a time of economic hardship.

"Functioning democracies are more capable of committing to and implementing economic reforms, sometimes even painful reforms that are necessary to stimulate economic recovery and economic growth," Biden said.

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