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Biden at Davos: Russia is greatest threat to democracy

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Speaking in Davos, Biden said "Russia is working with every tool available to them to whittle away at the edges of the European project, test for fault lines among western nations, and return to a politics defined by spheres of influence." USA TODAY
DAVOS, Switzerland — Russia is undermining the liberal world order in its quest for influence, Vice President Biden said Wednesday in his last major speech before leaving office.
Biden cited Iran and China among "the greatest threats" to the democracies built in Europe and the United States, but, he said, "I will not mince words. This movement is principally led by Russia."
"Under President (Vladimir) Putin, Russia is working with every tool available to them to whittle away at the edges of the European project, test for fault lines among western nations, and return to a politics defined by spheres of influence," Biden told an audience of CEOs, world leaders and media gather for the World Economic Forum.
Biden cited Russia's efforts to stoke separatism in Ukraine, use of energy as a weapon and its cyber intrusions into democratic elections, and warned that Russia could use its tactics to manipulate politics in Europe.
"With many countries in Europe slated to hold elections this year, we should expect further attempts by Russia to meddle in the democratic process," he said.
Biden began his speech on a light note, noting he had just two days before he could "say what I think" as a simply a citizen, but quickly moved to address the economic and political unease that has inspired populist movements around the world.
"In these early days of 2017, there’s a palpable uncertainty about the state of our world," Biden said. "Here in this exclusive Alpine tower, where CEOs of multinational corporations rub elbows with leaders of nations, it is easy to embrace the intellectual benefits of a more open and integrated world. But it is at our own peril that we ignore or dismiss the legitimate fears and anxieties that exist in communities all across the developed world."
Biden, who calls himself a "free trader" and supporter of globalization, said that business and political leaders must recognize that "globalization has not been an unalloyed good" and take steps to close the rift between those "racing ahead at the top" and those "struggling to hang on in the middle."
The "top 1% is not carrying their weight. You’re not bad guys. You’re good guys," he told the audience.
He noted at the start of his speech that his comments about uncertainty and unease did not refer to the transition of power Friday as President-elect Donald Trump takes office, but said opposition to globalization manifested in backlash against free trade and diplomacy would unravel some of the gains made by western democracies since World War II.
"Popular movements on both the left and the right have demonstrated a dangerous willingness to revert to political small-mindedness — to the same nationalist, protectionist and isolationist agendas that led the world to consume itself in war during in the last century," Biden said. "As we have seen time and again throughout history, demagogues and autocrats have emerged — seeking to capitalize on people’s insecurities."
In an interview with The New York Times published Tuesday, Biden said if Trump fails to engage in foreign policy, pursuing an isolationist agenda for the United States and “just stays behind the lines — hands off — it could be very ugly. Very, very ugly.”
Biden, who spent two days at the elite gathering in Davos, met with China President Xi JinpingMasoud Barzani, who represents the Kurdistan Region in Iraq and Serbia Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic. He gave a speech on the cancer moonshots and mingled with CEO and celebrities, including George and Amal Clooney.
MORE DAVOS COVERAGE:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/01/18/biden-russia-davos/96709068/

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