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Vice President Biden's Remarks at the Munich Security Conference, February 2013

Speaker: Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Published February 2, 2013

Vice President Joe Biden presented these remarks at the Munich Security Conference on February 2, 2013. He discussed developments in American foreign policy and international security over the last four years, regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear program, the global financial crisis, counterterrorism, and the relationship between the United States and Russia.

Excerpt from the speech:

"Four years ago at this conference, we proposed the United States and Russia, Mr. Ambassador, press the "reset button," a phrase that became more used than I had intended when I used the phrase. But the whole idea was to pursue a common agenda around common interests.

I would think -- I think Foreign Minister Lavrov would agree that important steps -- that important step enabled us to do some good things: to negotiate, ratify and implement the New START Treaty; to activate unprecedented sanctions on Iran; and unity on North Korea; to build the northern distribution network that supplies the United States and ISAF forces in Afghanistan; to expand economic and trade relationships -- including both Russian accession to the WTO and extension of the permanent normal trade relations to Russia; to negotiate a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement; to build a bilateral presidential commission that networks Russian and American officials and publics on the broadest cooperative agenda the United States and Russia have ever tried to share.

But I also made clear four years ago, we are not naïve -- neither Russia or the United States. I said we would not agree with Russia on everything. For example, the United States will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. We will not recognize any nation having a sphere of influence. It will remain America's view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances. All that remains the U.S. position; it will not change. But in the meantime, other clear differences have emerged as well. It's no secret that we have serious differences on issues like Syria, missile defense, NATO enlargement, democracy, human rights. These differences are real. But we continue to see opportunities for the United States and Russia to partner in ways that advance our mutual security interest and the interest of the international community -- whether by safeguarding and reducing nuclear arsenals, boosting our trade and investment to help each other unlock the enormous innovative potential of our societies, working collaboratively to advance freedom of navigation in the Arctic while preserving access to natural resources. New challenges -- there are new challenges in the years to come.

Over the next four years and beyond, Europe and the United States will turn our attention to a new set of challenges no less daunting than the ones that came when I addressed this conference four years ago. But I would also -- I argue no less soluble than those challenges we faced four years ago.

President Obama will say more about this agenda next week in his State of the Union address, and I've learned as Vice President it's not a good thing to steal the President's thunder, John. (Laughter.) I've learned that. I've gotten better after four years of this.

But it will reflect our shared interests in the following areas: advancing a comprehensive nuclear agenda to strengthen the nonproliferation regime, reduce global stockpiles and secure nuclear materials -- and I am looking forward -- Sam told me of the initiative that he and his colleagues are thinking about, and we're anxious to hear it -- getting -- combating climate change, moving it up on the agenda; enhancing our development initiatives to promote global health and food security and end extreme poverty in the near future; strengthening our alliances, which are essentially -- essential to our ability to meet our challenges in the 21st century; continuing to take down barriers to trade including with Europe to spur growth on both sides of the Atlantic; maintaining our commitment to the elusive but essential goal of Middle East Peace; and strengthening the -- engaging the democracies in Southeast Asia, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and across the Middle East."

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