Russia: BTR-80 convoy seen in Astrakhan with white markings
The US this week announced sprawling new sanctions against Russia in response to what it says are cyber attacks. Measures target dozens of Russian entities and officials, and aim to deter “Russia’s harmful foreign activities”, according to the White House. It comes amid a backdrop of political turmoil as President Vladmir Putin amasses Russian troops along Ukraine’s border in annexed Crimea.
Mr Biden has condemned the act and urged Mr Putin to refrain from adding more troops to the region, the number which now exceeds 100,000.
He has since spoken to Mr Putin and suggested they meet for discussions in a third country to deescalate the situation.
Mr Biden has a long history of attempting to quell tensions in Europe and the Caucasus involving Russia.
In 2009, while Vice-President to Barack Obama, he involved himself in helping to repair relations between the two former Soviet Republics of Ukraine and Georgia and Russia.
Joe Biden: The US President claimed that Russia was ‘losing its empire’
Ukraine: Ukrainian soldiers pictured during military practise drills on the border
He and Mr Obama offered “unconditional support” to both Georgia and Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Things at the time were especially tense in the disputed regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, territories Georgia sees as part of its sovereign state but where Russian soldiers were stationed.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal following his trips to the countries, Mr Biden delivered Mr Putin – who was then Prime Minister – and Russia a brutal snub when he suggested the country was fragile in its identity.
He said it was difficult for the former Soviet Superpower to deal with the “loss of empire”.
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US news: Biden pictured giving a speech in Ukraine during his 2009 visit
Mr Biden continued: “It is never smart to embarrass an individual or a country when they’re dealing with significant loss of face.
“Russians have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they’re in a situation where the world is changing before them and they’re clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable.”
He said it was economic hardship that had led the Kremlin to seek a reduction in nuclear warheads, and added: “All of a sudden, did they have an epiphany and say, ‘Hey man, we don’t want to threaten our neighbours?’
“No. They can’t sustain it.”
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Georgia: Biden pictured during his visit to George in 2009
Vladmir Putin: Putin was Prime Minister when Biden made the trips
Russia claimed to be confused by Mr Biden’s comments.
Russian presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko told the Interfax news agency at the time: “It is perplexing why Biden decided to share his interpretation of and his view on the bilateral relations.”
Meanwhile, NATO’s Secretary General this week called on Russia to halt its military buildup around Ukraine.
This was before Russian military vehicles decorated with “invasion stripes” were seen flooding into its Astrakhan region, located 350 miles from the western border.
Putin profile: The former KGB worker has held the posts of President and Prime Minister in Russia
The clip showed a row of BTR 80 armoured personnel carriers, each with a white cross painted across the top.
It reminded many of the Cold War, where Russian soldiers would paint similar crosses on their tanks and other materials in order to distinguish them from their opponents.
Most notably, the tactic was used when the USSR invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Military: Many are focused on thwarting any full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine
Modern technology means the crosses are no longer required for identification, but could be an intimidation technique.
Russia has not yet fully explained why it has stationed troops in the region.
The country’s political and military leaders, however, have blamed the US and the military alliance, accusing them of turning Ukraine into a “powder keg” and of provoking the Russian buildup.