Are we about to part with Jacson-Vanik amendment?
There’s a saying in American political folklore: «Vice President is a guy, who sits at the White House porch, waiting for President to be shot». This capacious wording perfectly describes the U.S. Vice President Joseph Robinette Biden Junior, who has recently visited our country.
Biden junior is not a green kid, indeed — he is 68. In the due time he has made a splendid political career. At the threshold of his thirtieth anniversary — in 1972 — he became the U.S. Senator from Delaware. This state is well-known in our country as a mother of American offshore zones. It is of peculiar interest to us that by that moment Senator-to-be didn’t have any political experience whatsoever. Before that he used to be a municipal councilor of the New Castle County in Delaware — some small-time job. However, as it often happens, early start became a reason for protracted career stagnation. Since 1972 to 2008 (for 36 years) Joseph Biden remained Senator, defeating every claimant to his seat year by year. In the meantime huge Senator’s experience allowed him to be promoted for the post of Senate Commission on Foreign Affairs Chair, which meant quite a share of influence in the USA and steady connections among the world diplomatic elite. Long-living Senator wasn’t completely free from Presidential ambitions. For the first time he used to be Democratic candidate for presidency in 1988, but he stepped down after being exposed of plagiarism. At that time Biden «cribbed» his election speech from the speech of British Labourite leader Neil Kinnock.
In 2004, in spite of significant Democratic support, he refused the nomination and supported John Kerry instead. In 2008 Biden was nearly the first of Democrats to claim his wish to run for presidency, but the too long term of his work at Capitol Hill played against him. In the eyes of American voters Biden embodied the Washington bureaucrats, whom Americans love no more than we do love our own officials. However, his experience as the Chair of Senate Commission on Foreign Affairs predefined Obama’s choice of Vice President. Despite this estimable political experience, long trace of political gags follows Joseph Biden. He used to make these blunders every now and then on different occasions, but every time they had major public responses. For example, having held a public speech on the 9th of September during the election rally in Missouri, he addressed Chuck Graham (Senator from this state): «Stand up, let people look at you!» At that, paralyzed Senator was sitting right by his side in the wheelchair. The next day, Joe Biden confessed to the New York Times, that Hillary Clinton would have been a better Vice President than him. Venomous interviewer didn’t fail to denote, that «perhaps everyone in the United States noticed that, but not Barack Obama».
It is worth mentioning that despite the mostly positive background of Biden’s visit to Moscow he didn’t manage to avoid certain, so to say, tactlessness in his remarks during the meeting with representatives of oppositionist parties at Spaso-House. After all, American Vice President should have been more careful in his choice of words, rather than saying the following: «Having come to the USSR in the 70s, the thought that sometimes I would support communists and even wish them luck, had never crossed my mind…» When one of the foreign leaders publicly (even in a jokingly manner) expresses his support for one of political powers of receiving country, this may look like a violation of the generally used diplomatic etiquette.
Still it was Russian WTO membership and Russo-American cooperation in the sphere of security, that made up the main topic of Biden’s visit, not his meetings with the opposition. When it comes to the former issue, the role of the United States is particularly important. Americans are yet to «persuade» Georgia and lean it towards the denial of clearly unreal claims — the ones that Georgia addresses not to Russia, but to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which, frankly speaking, do not even participate in these talks. Saakashvili asks for the right to send Georgian customs officers to the borders of these states with Russia. From the international legislation standpoint, these claims seem to be completely unfeasible. As long as Russia recognized these states as subjects of international legislation, the issue of establishing foreign customs posts at their territory can hardly be settled without infringing upon their sovereignty — so it is unlikely to be done this way. Even if we assume the impossible (consent of Abkhazia and South Ossetia) it is unclear, who would guard Georgian customs officers as long as both Abkhazians and Ossetians are not particularly friendly towards their offenders. Almost for sure, Tbilisi understands that, too. That’s why obviously impracticable Saakashvili’s claims should be considered to be black-mailing of the USA. The most probable scenario is that his regime would demand Washington for cheap loans — it desperately needs them in order to cure the poor state of Georgian economics and purchase arms to «reflect the Russian aggression».
It is up to Americans, how they are going to deal with Tbilisi. Perhaps, that’s the exact reason, why it was Biden, who came to Moscow, rather than Hillary Clinton — it is him who «oversees» the Georgian-American relations in Washington. So Biden’s visit to Tbilisi or Saakashvili’s visit to Washington is likely to be expected after the Moscow meeting. Ironic remark of Joe Biden, that he put in the beginning of his meeting with President Medvedev, should also be ascribed for the account of Russian entry to the WTO. Smiling, American Vice President has set the tone of discussion, having said: «I am so old that I used to meet with Brezhnev and I personally knew Mr. Jackson and Mr. Vanik». Famous Jackson-Vanik amendment that discriminated the Russo-American trade relations had long ago become proverbial. Having been imposed in 1974 as a sign of protest against the immigration restrictions for Soviet Jews, it had lost its topicality long time ago (in 2008 Israel itself initiated the imposition of visa free regime with the Russian Federation in order to simplify the trips of its citizens to Russia), but despite numerous promises of the U.S. Presidents — from Clinton to Obama — it is still effective. Nowadays it is merely a symbol, yet it is the lack of sense of its existence, that fairly irritates Russian authorities the most. And on the eve of Russian entry to WTO its cancellation is vitally important.
In general, American media response to Joe Biden’s visit to Moscow was positive. The New York Times and Huffington Post have marked out Russian efforts to join the World Trade Organization. Even the Washington Post, which usually challenges initiatives of Obama’s administration, was satisfied to comment on the contract between Aeroflot and Boeing to the amount of $2 billion that the sides have signed at the Vice President’s personal presence.
Joseph Biden’s visit to Moscow can hardly be called a breakthrough. Nothing particularly important happened during it. Everything went just as planned and expected. Perhaps, it’s not that bad and it makes an evidence of the fact, that Russian-American relations are gradually coming to normal, aren’t they?