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Watch: Joe Biden tough but optimistic on Russia, Putin and Ukraine

Vice President Joe Biden spoke at Brookings Wednesday afternoon to address the Russia-Ukraine conflict. He underlined the seriousness of the conflict and pressed a hard line on Russia, describing how Putin has pursued “aggressive repression” at home, while showing “contempt” for his smaller neighbors, and “pure aggression” toward Ukraine.  

Biden was fundamentally optimistic, saying “Putin’s vision has very little to offer Europe and Russia except for myths and illusions.” He said of the conflict: “I believe the terrain is fundamentally in our favor.”

In describing his experience with Putin, Biden described the Russian leader as a practical person. Putin will, Biden said, “push as far as he can…until he reaches a resistance that in fact says there’s a big price to pay.”

The path forward, he outlined, was to continue pressing Russia with sanctions, while working with the Europeans to increase military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and continue working with the Ukrainian government on meaningful reforms.

Biden said that “helping Ukraine in its defense and deterrence against Russian aggression is critical to checking further aggression down the road,” and also that the United States’ focus will be on “directly addressing the humanitarian tragedy in Ukraine that has been brought on by Russian aggression.”

He described at length the necessity of reforms to decentralize and fight corruption in Ukraine and said the local leaders are working on these reforms. Biden said “so long as Ukraine leaders keep faith with the project of reform, the U.S. will continue to stand with them.”

Biden concluded by saying that “We’ve reached another moment in the trans-Atlantic relationship that calls out for leadership,” and that, “if the U.S. and Europe can reassert and stick to our principles…I have every confidence that we can leave the trans-Atlantic relationship even stronger than we found it.”

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