US Vice-President Joe Biden calls Russia biggest threat to international order

US Vice-president Joe Biden, in his last major speech before leaving office, described Russia on Wednesday (January 18) as the biggest threat to the international liberal order.
Outgoing US Vice-President Joe Biden addresses the assembly on the second day of the World Economic Forum, on Jan 18, 2017 in Davos.
Outgoing US Vice-President Joe Biden addresses the assembly on the second day of the World Economic Forum, on Jan 18, 2017 in Davos. PHOTO: AFP

DAVOS (REUTERS) - US Vice-President Joe Biden, in his last major speech before leaving office, described Russia on Wednesday (Jan 18) as the biggest threat to the international liberal order and said Washington must work with Europe to stand up to Mr Vladimir Putin.

Mr Biden was speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos two days before the inauguration of Mr Donald Trump as US president.

Mr Trump has sent conciliatory signals to Mr Putin and seemed to encourage the disintegration of the European Union by praising Britain's decision to leave the bloc and predicting that more countries could bolt.

Mr Biden pushed back forcefully against Mr Trump's message, warning hundreds of leaders, CEOs and bankers gathered in a vast conference hall in the Swiss Alps resort town that Mr Putin was likely to try to influence a series of elections in Europe this year, as it is accused of doing in the recent US vote.

"Under President Putin, Russia is working with every tool available to them to whittle away at the edges of the European project, test the fault lines of Western nations and return to a politics defined by spheres of influence," Mr Biden said.

"With many countries in Europe slated to hold elections this year, we should expect further attempts by Russia to meddle in the democratic process. It will occur again, I promise you. And again the purpose is clear: to collapse the liberal international order," Mr Biden added.

He did not address Mr Trump directly, but warned of a "dangerous willingness to revert to political small-mindedness" in politics and said that "dangerous autocrats and demagogues" had tried to capitalise on people's fears throughout history.

Mr Biden called Article 5 of the Nato treaty, which states that an attack on one member of the transatlantic military alliance is considered an attack on all, a "sacred obligation".

Trump has called Nato "obsolete" and raised doubts about whether he would respect Article 5, stirring deep unease in Europe.

"Defending the liberal international order requires that we resist the forces of European disintegration and maintain our longstanding insistence on a Europe, whole, free and peaceful," said Mr Biden.

"It means fighting for the European Union, one of the most vibrant and consequential institutions on earth," he added.