Putin offers Biden visa-free US-Russia travel


MOSCOW – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday proposed to visiting US Vice President Joe Biden that Russia and the United States abolish visas in a “historic” step to seal a revival in ties.
Biden’s visit is aimed at building on the “reset” in relations spearheaded by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev but Putin has until now enjoyed less cordial relations with Washington than his successor as Kremlin chief. “If the US and Russia agree to implement a visa-free regime before Russia and the European Union, then this would be a historic step in our relations,” Putin told Biden.
“This would break all the old stereotypes between Russia and the United States. We would turn a very important page and everything would start over. This would create a new moral atmosphere.”
The unexpected proposal had not been flagged in advance and appeared another example of Putin’s fondness for taking observers by surprise with unexpected announcements. Efforts by Russia and the EU to agree visa-free travel have continued for years without substantial progress. But this appears to be the first time Putin has suggested cancelling visas with Moscow’s main Cold War foe.
Biden praised the improvement in ties overseen by Medvedev and President Barack Obama, saying that the two sides had been failing to exploit the opportunities in relations. “It is not a matter of altruism but in our self-interest and in the self- interest of Russia,” he said.