Biden returns to Europe in wake of Ukraine crisis


McClatchy Washington Bureau

Vice President Joe Biden leaves tonight for Romania and Cyprus, his latest trip aimed at reassuring European countries rattled by Russian President’s Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Ukraine.

Biden, who will be accompanied by his wife, Jill, will discuss the international community’s response to what the White House says is Russia’s “illegal military intervention and destabilizing actions in Ukraine.” He’ll also talk about deepening economic ties, including through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and steps to bolster Europe’s energy security.

The trip comes as Putin has said he’ll order troops on the Ukrainian border to return to their bases, but a White House official who briefed reporters on Biden’s trip said the U.S. hasn’t yet seen any evidence.

In Bucharest, Biden will meet with Romanian President Băsescu and Prime Minister Ponta. He will also deliver remarks to Romanian civil society and youth leaders, and will meet with American and Romanian troops conducting a joint capacity-building exercise.

In Cyprus, Biden will meet with political leaders from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, civil society representatives, and faith leaders. The White House says he will “emphasize the United States’ strong support for a comprehensive settlement to reunify the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality.”

Biden will be the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Cyprus since then-vice president Lyndon B. Johnson in 1962. While there he will mark the 40th anniversary of the shooting death of Rodger P. Davies, the U.S. ambassador to Cyprus who was killed by sniper fire during a demonstration against American policy by Greek Cypriots at the embassy in Nicosia on Aug. 19, 1974.

Davies' secretary, Antoinette Varnava, was also killed. Davies, a Berkeley, Calif. native, had been appointed ambassador to Cyprus only a month before his death. He had served as the director of the United States Department of State's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and later the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.

Biden has been a “frequent flyer to Europe, as of late, flying across the Atlantic on a monthly basis since February,” writes Heather Conley, a senior fellow and director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She said Biden “has become the ‘Reassure-er-in-Chief,’ offering words of consolation and American solidarity for increasingly nervous governments in Central and Southern Europe and the Baltics. These countries fully understand the deleterious effects of Russian aggression and European inaction which is why they actively seek American reassurance.”

Conley notes that Biden’s trip on Cyprus comes amid a “glimmer of hope for fruitful negotiations between the Greek Cypriot community and the Turkish Cypriots who live in the internationally unrecognized North.”

“This is what brings an American Vice President to Cyprus after 52 years,” she said, “the promise of a diplomatic success–something that has eluded the Obama foreign policy agenda for quite some time.”

The Cyprus Mail notes his visit already is drawing mixed responses. And it’s not without some controversy at home: the White House last week sought to downplay news that Biden’s youngest son, Hunter, has been appointed head of legal affairs for Cyprus-based Burisma Holdings -- Ukraine’s largest private gas producer.

Though the U.S. has touted the need for Ukraine to boost its energy independence, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the position was unrelated to any official government stance.

“Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family are obviously private citizens and where they work does not reflect an endorsement by the administration or by the Vice President or President,” Carney said.

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, after he spoke by telephone earlier in the day with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the first conversation between American and Iranian leaders in more than 30 years. One year ago, Obama and Rouhani came close to ending the decades-long freeze on face-to-face meetings between their countries’ leaders. In late September 2014 both men are scheduled to again be in New York for United Nations meetings but expectations for even a handshake are more muted than they were last fall.

    Muted expectations for Obama, Rouhani meeting

    One year ago, President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came close to ending the decades-long freeze on face-to-face meetings between their countries' leaders.

In this Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 photo, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen arrives for a dinner during the Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium at the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyo. Yellen will be pressed to clarify the Fed's intentions after the Fed issues its policy statement on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014.

    Fed signals plan to keep key rate at record low

    The Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday that it plans to keep a key interest rate at a record low for a considerable period because a broad range of U.S. economic measures remain subpar.

FILE - In this March 10, 2014, file photo, former San Francisco Giants Barry Bonds chats to the dugout during a spring training baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz. Bonds gets another attempt to overturn his obstruction of justice conviction when an 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments in his case Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014.

    Barry Bonds appeal heads back to court

    Nearly 11 years after Barry Bonds testified before a grand jury investigating the illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs, a group of judges will hear arguments Thursday on whether baseball's career home-run leader should have his obstruction of justice conviction thrown out.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category