DID Vice-President Joseph Biden accidentally pick up an old Dick Cheney file as he left his White House office to speak yesterday at the annual Munich International Security Council? It certainly seemed that way as Mr Biden delivered a speech that was only marginally less hard-line than those we have become familiar with over the past eight years. The Vice President was given a warm reception but afterwards many people were wondering whether anything had changed in Washington's foreign policy. On the right of NATO to continue to establish “deep co-operation with like-minded countries” (Georgia and Ukraine presumably); on America's refusal to recognise South Ossetia or Abkhazia as independent states, or to recognise the existence of a Russian sphere of influence; on America's intention to pursue the missile defence shield in Poland and Czechoslovakia (despite hints last week that it would be reviewed); on the need for Iran to “abandon its illicit nuclear programme and support for terrorism” before there could be talks - on all these issues and others it was difficult to see what, if any, change has taken place in Washington foreign policy thinking since January 20. After saying “we will not agree with Russia on everything” (an understatement if ever there was one) Mr Biden did allow that America and Russia should “work together when our interests coincide.” Immediate reactions to Mr Biden's speech were “It's in our interests to cooperate with Russia” (Angela Merkel) and “There's more and more distance between the EU and Russia” (N. Sarkozy). Here we go again.


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