Maybe Joe Biden’s main problem isn’t simply that he’s “gaffe-prone” – at least not nowadays, as he again seeks the Democratic nomination for President. Maybe the former Vice President’s main problem is that he’s suffering major memory loss – and I mean major memory loss. Either that, or his recollection of how the Obama administration in which he served responded to Russian political subversion in Europe reveals a truth-telling problem comparable to the one widely believed displayed by President Trump.
How else can the following recent Biden statement be explained, in a CNN interview in which he charged that Mr. Trump’s reelection would wind up destroying the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – America’s most important post-World War II security alliance:
“Why did we set up NATO…? So no one nation could abuse the power in the region in Europe, would suck us in the way they did in World War I and World War II. It’s being crushed.
“Look at what’s happened with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. While he — while Putin is trying to undo our elections, he is undoing elections in — in Europe. Look what’s happened in Hungary. Look what’s happened in Poland. Look what’s happened in — look what’s happening. You think that would have happened on my watch or Barack [Obama]’s watch? You can’t answer that, but I promise you it wouldn’t have, and it didn’t.”
Leave aside for now the massively inconvenient truth that the Obama-Biden watch was exactly when Putin most recently tried to “undo” (bizarro phrasing, I know) a U.S. election. Leave aside also the incoherence of the claim that “You can’t answer that, but I promise you it wouldn’t have, and it didn’t.”
Because even if Biden is only referring to Russian interference with politics in Europe, his statement ignores literally dozens of such instances and campaigns during his White House years. Abundant evidence comes from the Alliance for Securing Democracy – a research organization housed in the German Marshall Fund – a quintessentially globalist, Washington, D.C.-based think tank. For good measure, the Alliance’s “Advisory Council” contains not only the usual crew of bipartisan Washington foreign policy Blob hangers-on from previous globalist administrations, but virulent Trump-haters like long-time neoconservative stalwart Bill Kristol, as well as John Podesta, who chaired Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful presidential run in 2016. So clearly, this source has no interest in putting out anything that will make Mr. Trump look good relative to political rivals.
The Alliance maintains a handy-dandy interactive search engine called the “Authoritarian Interference Tracker,” which makes it easy to identify political subversion efforts by a wide range of countries in a wide range of countries. And here’s just a small sample of what comes up when the controls are set for the Obama years:
>2008 – present: “In 2008, the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, a pro-Russia think tank headed by former Duma deputy Natlaya Norchnitskaya, opened in Paris. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, ‘the organization toes a blatantly pro-Kremlin line.’ The Institute’s Director of Studies…told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that its financing comes from ‘the Foundation for Historical Outlook in Moscow, which in turn is financed by unspecified private Russian companies.’”
>2008-2017: “According to the [British newspaper] The Guardian, between 2008 and 2017, Rossotrudnichnestvo, a Russian government-organized non-governmental organization (GONGO) worked with state-sponsored media outlet TASS and Russian intelligence agencies as part of a nearly decade-long influence effort that sought to distance Macedonia from the EU [European Union] and N NATO and to prevent the success of the Macedonian name change referendum.”
>2009-2011: “According to the Czech Security Information Service’s (BIS) annual reports for 2009 and 2010, Russian intelligence services were actively involved in programs to build closer relations with the Russian expatriate community in the Czech Republic as a way to expand influence in the country. These programs specifically targeted academic and intellectual elites as well as students, according to BIS.”
>2010-2014: “According to Reuters, between 2010 and 2014, the Russian government offered Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash lucrative business deals in exchange for Firtash’s political support in Ukraine. Firtash and his companies received large loans and lucrative gas contracts from Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom at significantly discounted prices. Firtash’s companies would then sell gas to the Ukrainian government at a high price and pocket the difference. Firtash used his domestic political influence in Ukraine to support Russian government-backed presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych’s successful 2010 campaign for the presidency. According to Reuters, the Russian government instructed Firtash to ensure Ukraine’s position in Russia’s sphere of influence.”
Here are some abbreviated descriptions of other such incidents:
>2010-2011: “Funds from Russian money-laundering scheme funneled to Latvian political party.”
>2010: “Russian government-connected oligarch Vladimir Yakunin finances pro-Russian Estonian political party.”
>2010-2014: “Emails expose Greek political party Syriza’s ties to Russian-connected actors.”
>2013: “Russian money-laundering ring cycles money through Polish, pro-Russia think tank.”
>2013: Bulgaria’s “Pro-Russian Ataka party reportedly receives funding from the Russian embassy.”
>2013: “Russian government-connected oligarch Vladimir Yakunin launches foundation in Geneva [Switzerland]. The foundation allegedly “is part of a network of organizations promoting an authoritarian and Eurasianist model of thought to counter the current liberal-democratic world order.”
>2014: A “new Russian Orthodox Church in Skopje [Macedonia] raised concerns among Macedonian officials that ‘Russia may be trying to use the Orthodox Church to its Russian interests in Macedonia,’ according to” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
>2014-present: “Emails reveal Russian government-connected oligarch funded network of pro-Russia fringe political groups in Eastern Europe.”
>2014: “French far-right party National Rally, formerly Front National…receives loan from bank ‘with links to the Kremlin.’”
>2015: “Russian government activist founds pro-Russia political party” in Poland.
>2016-17: “Czech intelligence service reports on Russian covert political influence campaign in annual report.”
My point here certainly isn’t to sound the alarm about all this Russian political activity, especially in Eastern Europe – which, as I’ve written repeatedly (see, e.g., here), has long been part of Russia’s sphere of influence, has never been defined as a vital U.S. interest, and where America’s options for responding effectively are limited at best. Nor is my point to vouch for the accuracy of every single one of the above claims, or others like it in the database. And I certainly don’t believe that the above information represents any evidence that Russian interference put Mr. Trump over the top in 2016.
Instead, the point is to show that, despite Biden’s boasts, the kind of Russian activities about which he’s alarmed plainly took place during the Obama years in spades (and have been reported by many Mainstream Media sources, as the database makes clear), they occurred in both Eastern and in (more important to the United States) Western Europe, and that Washington’s responses evidently did little to stop or even curb them.
Indeed, the record shows that, at least when it comes to Biden’s record of fighting the Russian subversion in Europe that he considers a mortal threat to America, by his own standards, he deserves the Trump-ian label of “Sleepy Joe.” As in asleep at the switch.