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Biden’s Ukrainegate Problem

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

In Danny Boyle’s 2019 movie comedy “Yesterday,” after a global blackout causes the near worldwide memory loss of the existence of the Beatles, an amateur musician from an English coastal town takes advantage of the situation to steal their songs and achieve instant global stardom. In this scenario, it is an accident that causes Beatles amnesia.

In the case of the Democrats’ obsession with Russiagate, a propaganda narrative delivered to and amplified by willing accessories in the mainstream media (MSM) through the initiative of the Central Intelligence Agency, there is a massive memory shutdown of just who the CIA actually is. This is the agency that has run US foreign policy for more than 70 years with a program of political destabilization, assassinations, lying to Congress about their illegal operations throughout the world, including the fabrication of Iraq’s supposed WMD program, spying on members of the Senate, and regularly dishing out black propaganda and disinformation for MSM distribution.

The leadership of the Democrats in hopes of flipping the White House to their party control have partnered with the CIA and the likes of its former director John Brennan (2013-2017), who introduced the Russia “hacking” story to the MSM in 2016. The Russian state, he claimed, had provided WikiLeaks with emails from the Democratic National Committee server that damaged the Clinton campaign and helped Trump win the election. The leaks included emails that exposed Clinton activities in securing quid pro quo deals with reactionary Middle East leaders in exchange for their large financial contributions to her and her husband’s private foundation.

They also exposed her collusion with the DNC for the purpose of undermining the presidential primary campaign of her rival Bernie Sanders and emails that showed that a longtime ally of Clinton and the DNC vice chair Donna Brazile had fed Clinton topics beforehand to be used in CNN “town halls”; that Clinton had a cozy relationship with Wall Street financial houses; that she in camera admitted that her public political statements contradicted her private beliefs; that she planned to invade and confront Russia in Syria; and that as a principle of foreign policy, she favored covert intervention in other countries’ affairs.

What the hawkish Clinton could not achieve, the less strident imperialist Joe Biden hopes to carry on. He comes from the same neoliberal and neoconservative mindset as the former first lady and secretary of state. As part of his campaign fundraising efforts to secure big bucks from big pocket corporations and billionaires, Biden recently assured the tycoon class that changing corporate behavior “is not going to require legislation – [and] I’m not proposing any.” As a senator, he always played ball with Republicans and conservative Democrats, and that’s how he hopes to win over independents and anti-Trump conservatives to his side.

The Maidan coup in Ukraine in 2014, fomented by efforts to purge the government of its Russia-leaning leadership, has its roots in the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 2004, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) teamed up with the State Department, USAID, Freedom House, George Soros’s Open Society Institute, Britain’s Westminster Institute, the political consultant Dick Morris, and other government groups, including the CIA, to block Viktor Yanukovych from taking office as president following an election in 2004, which the US and domestic enemies of Yanukovych branded as rigged. That year alone, according to the State Department, the US spent about $34 million on regime change initiatives in Ukraine, while Soros pitched in about $1.6 million in support of a local “Freedom of Choice” NGO coalition and Ukraine’s “New Choice 2004.”

NED activists and Soros’s OSI employed a broad public relations strategy to aid a youth protest movement, bus paid out-of-town protesters into Kiev, create an online TV protest station, create agitation paraphernalia, and provide offshore training to the anti-Yanukovych student leadership based on a template “revolutionary” strategy and the writings of Gene Sharp they had previously successfully employed in Serbia with a youth group called “Otpor.” They also paid local pollsters to do exit polls in favor of the US backed candidate, Viktor Yushchenko. One of the paid polling groups had USAID, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the U.S. State Department, and Coca-Cola among its former clients.

The US involvement in the so-called “color revolutions” in former Soviet-allied states is discussed in extensive detail in my 2010 book, Branding Democracy: U.S. Regime Change in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe and in a shorter version published in the UK.

The US found a second chance, starting in 2013, to rid the country of then president Yanukovych and played an active role in a coup against his government. This time around, apart from its other standard tactics, the US supported a much more violent section of the protest movement, involving neofascist organizations such as Svoboda and the Right Sector, which strongly identified with the pro-Nazi nationalist movement in that country during World War II. Vice President Biden’s relationship with Ukraine intensified at that time when he played a key role in the “Maidan” uprising and the coup that overthrew Yanukovych.

This opened up the opportunity for State Department to install their anti-Russia choices for the new president and prime minister, respectively Viktor Poroshenko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John McCain (R-AZ) showed up in the Maidan (square), where they shared the stage with the neo-Nazi Ukrainian leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, to cheer on the protesters. Once the neo-Nazi elements entered the Maidan and began to shoot police and throw gasoline bombs at government buildings, Yanukovych was forced to flee the country.

The assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs in the Obama administration, Victoria Nuland, a neocon, blatantly engaged in the protest, handing out cookies (let them eat cookies) to the demonstrators. This form of foreign intervention by public officials is unheard of. Nuland worked closely with the US ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt, to handpick Yanukovych’s successors.

Nuland’s husband, the neocon Robert Kagan, had earlier been one of the architects of the plan (with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Eliot Abrams, Richard Perle and other hawks and chicken hawks) under the Project for a New American Century to invade Iraq. Nuland and Kagan must have had intense pillow talk on the tactics of regime change.

While the Maidan protest was underway, in December 2013 Nuland spoke before the International Business Conference, a group sponsored by the US-Ukrainian Foundation, where she bragged that Washington had “invested” more than $5 billion over the years in support of opposition forces, routed through NGOs, and in backing Ukraine’s “European aspirations.” A couple of months later she would be caught on tape with the US ambassador in Kiev arrogantly raging that the US should “fuck the EU.” The US doesn’t influence foreign elections, it runs them.

Biden’s role in the Ukraine regime change, as Nuland put it, was to “midwife” the new government into existence and thereby incorporate another eastern European satellite into America’s orbit. This is what the neocons call “democracy promotion.” His efforts in Ukraine, however, proved disastrous.

Two years after the coup, Yatsenyuk, caught up in a corruption scandal and about to receive a vote of no-confidence, was forced to resign as prime minister. Later in 2016, after Poroshenko’s name was listed as one of the businessmen with offshore accounts hidden in the Panama tax haven, his trust rating sank to 13.7%, according to a poll by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology. Biden’s boys were busted. One can only imagine his reaction if Vladimir Putin had been involved in such a financial scandal and with such a low approval rating.

Poroshenko was well-known within the State Department for corruption as well as being a regular informant to the US embassy in Kiev years before he was put up for president. His dirty reputation didn’t trouble Biden at all, as the vice president had his own family business deals to sow, with Poroshenko as an accomplice. Two months after the Maidan coup and his anointment as president, Poroshenko’s repayment was to shepherd Biden’s son, Hunter, onto the board and as head of legal affairs at Ukraine’s largest gas producer, Burisma Holdings, run by the oligarch and former head of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, Mykola Zlochevsky.

Just two months after being booted out of the US Navy for cocaine use, Hunter was deemed fit to operate in Ukraine’s political culture, which for many Ukrainians must have been a grave insult. It is more to Joe Biden’s discredit, however, that he encouraged his son to be part of a regime that was ranked in 2015 the most corrupt country in Europe, and, according to Ernst & Young, has the highest level of fraud of 41 countries they surveyed (2017) and ranked second in the world in bribery and corruption (2017).

Burisma’s owner was notorious for using his high political position to convert privatized state assets into his personal coffers. The year and month young Biden was hired, April 2014, Zlochevsky came under the investigation of the government’s Serious Fraud Office for money laundering, tax evasion, embezzlement, and corruption, including his stashing of $23.5 million in his London companies and money laundering operations in Cyprus and Latvia.

Zlochevsky was also investigated for handing out oil and gas licenses during his time as minister to companies that he then owned. According to a Reuters report, while acting as legal advisor to the company, Hunter Biden failed to give any legal help to Zlochevsky during the shakeup. Zlochevsky fled the country and was last known to be living in the Riviera.

Biden used his position as vice president to coerce Poroshenko into firing his prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, as a condition for a US underwriting of an IMF $1 billion loan to Ukraine, in addition to assuring Biden that Ukraine was putting through the unnamed political and economic reforms demanded by the US and the IMF, including raising tariffs on Russian gas imports. This was captured in series of leaked phone calls between the then vice president and Poroshenko.

During a visit to Ukraine in December 2015, Biden told the Ukraine president, “I’m going to be leaving here in six hours. If the prosecutor’s [Shokin] not fired, you’re not getting the money.” Poroshenko, who owed his position to the Obama administration, followed orders. Biden later said triumphantly, “Well, son of a bitch, he got fired.” It was the height of imperial swagger.

Biden’s defenders claim that the demand for Shokin’s sacking was simply to clean up the Ukraine government. However, a French documentary produced by the anti-corruption blog Les Crises indicates through extensive interviews with Ukrainian political leaders that Shokin, an experienced lawyer and respected by many within the country’s political circles for honesty, was the only state prosecutor who had actively investigated high-level corruption. Two months before he was fired, Shokin had the house of Zlochevsky raided and confiscated.

Biden and Zlochevsky desperately wanted him out not for incompetence, as Biden claimed, but because of the embarrassing details Shokin was discovering about Burisma’s bribery and financial chicanery until Poroshenko ordered him to shut down the investigation. Shokin’s replacement was Yuri Lutsenko, who prior to his appointment had been sentenced in 2012 to 4 years (serving 3) in prison for forgery and abuse of office.

In one of their phone calls, Poroshenko is heard asking permission from Biden to put Lutsenko in the prosecutor’s office. Biden tells him he wants to “huddle with my team” before giving approval. Three months into office, Lutsenko dropped the case against Zlochevsky.

Meanwhile, Poroshenko was making deals with Zlochevsky through an intermediary to end the prosecution against him in exchange for a major share of the profits from Burisma’s companies. Poroshenko’s method was to threaten oligarchs whose properties he coveted with prosecution and then demand payoffs or cut profit-sharing deals with them. During his 5 years in power, Poroshenko never put in prison any of the oligarchs accused of corruption.

Along with his confectionary companies, “Chocolate King” Poroshenko, as he is known in Ukraine, had investments in car manufacturing, shipbuilding, armaments, and TV stations, controlling some 20-30% of the country’s media market. The “Chocolate King’s” estimated worth is currently $1.4 billion.

Ousted from the presidency in 2019, his successor Volodymyr Zelensky is said to be under the patronage of another oligarch, Igor Kolomoisky, who is worth a trifling $1 billion.

While his son was ensconced at a very high salary in one of the most corrupt industries in Ukraine, Biden was busy lecturing the Ukraine parliament (Rada) in December 2015 that “senior elected officials have to remove all conflicts between their business interest and their government responsibilities.” Adding to such sanctimonious malarkey, he said: “I never tell another man or another nation or another woman what’s in their interest.”

The US does not regard its constant interventions in other countries’ affairs as “interference” when it has to do with US hegemonic power demands. Personal manipulation of foreign governments and their leaders is not at all considered illegitimate. Biden’s personal interest in Ukraine was that the prosecutor general Viktor Shokin was investigating Burisma Holdings and its owner Mykola Zlochevsky too studiously. Zlochevsky hired Biden’s son, Hunter, in 2014 to be a “ceremonial figure” on the board of directors of his energy company, with a monthly stipend of $83,000, according to Fox News ($50,000/month according to the Wall Street Journal).

Neither Biden nor anyone else in the State Department at the time saw any conflict of interest between a vice president acting as a proconsul to another country on behalf of US interests, while his own son, who had no previous experience in the energy field, was making hay at the expense of the Ukrainian people and American taxpayers funding US assistance to one of the most corrupt regimes on the planet.

During his time on the Burisma board and as its legal advisor (2014-2019), Hunter Biden never bothered to visit Ukraine.

Gerald Sussman is professor of urban studies and international and global studies at Portland State University. He is the author and editor of several books, including The Propaganda Society: Promotional Culture and Politics in Global Context (2011).

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