He mangled a couple of Russian names and scolded the government for not dealing more forcefully with corruption, but Vice President Biden got his point across in a speech at Moscow State University: the United States wants to do more business with the Russian Federation.
"Some say, 'How can you say those things out loud and expect to have a better relationship?'" Biden said Thursday in remarks to students, business leaders and politicians. "They are necessary to have a better relationship."
Biden said the United States supports Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization and believes that would bring expanded trade between the two countries. But he said the government must also respect the rule of law. Biden complained that a corporate lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was arrested and died in prison after accusing the police of fraud -- "before even being tried."
Using a teleprompter, he got Magnitsky's name right, but flubbed on the great composer Tchaikovsky and missed on Mikhail Khodorkovsky
, an oil tycoon who has been imprisoned since 2003 on charges heavy with political implications.
In the context of the struggles for more freedom in the Arab world, Biden urged "all of you students here, don't compromise on the basic elements of democracy."
Earlier, he spoke with Russian opposition leaders at the U.S. ambassador's residence, and also met separately with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. When Putin said to the vice president that he wanted to see visa-free travel between the U.S. and Russia, Biden replied, "Good idea."
During the portion of their meeting open to the press, Biden told Putin it was in the interest of both nations to see "our relationship grow . . . When other countries around the globe have a problem they either go to Moscow or Washington. They don't go to other capitals."
The vice president is in the midst of a five-day trip
through Finland, Russia and Moldova.