One of the highlights of my journey around the world in 2007 was my three day stop in Russia. Moscow and St. Petersburg are great cities and I’ve often wanted to go back, especially now that I am relatively close in Germany.
But Russia’s arduous visa system has kept me from making that return journey. The $250+ fee is just too much to stomach for a single-entry visa, even as the Park Hyatt Moscow beckons. And don’t get me wrong–it’s not like Russians can board a flight to America without having to go through a lengthy visa process as well. At least I didn’t have to be interviewed by a Russian official to get my visa.
Vice President Joe Biden was in Russia last week and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hit him with a strong suggestion:
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 United States 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…
I doubt anything is going to come of this, but I wouldn’t mind a loosening of the visa requirements. Sure, there’s some cause for concern but I think much of the concern over Russia on the U.S. side is paranoia. Russia is no beacon of freedom (or even a candle of freedom), but I don’t think Vlad and Dimitri are hovering over a Lenin statue in the bowels of the Kremlin plotting a diabolical plan to obliterate the United States from the face of the Earth. No, I just think enemies are convenient.
And if we’re talking about loosening visa requirements, how about Brazil too?
Though probably not worth even mentioning, just keep this story in mind if you’re trying to decide whether to go to Russia now or later. I still say go now.