Biden Lukewarm on Visa Idea
In his final public appearance in Moscow, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday chose to ignore a stunning proposal to cancel visas between his country and Russia and instead stressed how rule of law could attract investors.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin voiced the idea of visa-free travel during talks just hours before Biden’s speech at Moscow State University to U.S. and Russian business people, State Duma lawmakers and students.
Moscow had never before brought up the issue of abolishing visas with Washington, at least at such a high level.
In support of the proposal, Putin said the abolition of visas would kill old stereotypes in bilateral relations.
“We would turn a very important page in our past and start all over again,” he said. “It would create an absolutely new moral atmosphere” between the countries.
The move — also widely seen as a potential catalyst for tourism and business — would be “historic” if reached before the European Union agrees to visa-free travel with Russia, Putin said. Moscow and Brussels have been negotiating an end to visas with slow progress.
As Putin spoke, Biden interjected by saying, “Good idea.” The remark prompted Putin to add that Biden could help promote the proposal as a senior member of the U.S. administration and someone who has “weight” in Congress.
Biden replied ambiguously.
He added that visa-free travel was an excellent long-term goal.
David Yakobashvili, president of the Russian-American Council of Business Collaboration, said he was hopeful. Natalya Barsegiyan, chief financial officer at the U.S. chain Yum! Restaurants in Moscow, said the idea was a bit premature, but “that’s where we should go.”