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.
Biden made the remarks in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Saturday, after he visited Ukraine and Georgia to reiterate U.S. support for the two former Soviet states at loggerheads with Moscow.
Earlier this month, President Barack Obama, who has said he wanted to "reset" relations with Russia, visited Moscow for a summit in which he and President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to finalize a treaty by December to cut the number of deployed nuclear warhead by each side.
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.
He 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.
He stressed the Russian leadership's pragmatism.
"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.
It is difficult for the former Soviet superpower to deal with "loss of empire," Biden said, and the United States should not overplay its hand in dealing with Russia.
"It is never smart to embarrass an individual or a country when they're dealing with significant loss of face," he said.
In Moscow, a Kremlin official said Biden's critical remarks about Russia were perplexing.
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