US President Donald Trump is currently using US allies in the Ukraine to ‘out’ 2014 business ties between Hunter Biden and a “shady” Ukrainian energy executive, so that the president might bring down Joe Biden as a Democratic contender in the 2020 US election.
Unfortunately, US news agencies are trying to “get at” the very fast, spot story — while ignoring the bigger, more reflective global policy picture. A better American leader (or candidate), for example, would be examining the Obama administration’s 2014 policies in coordination with its EU allies, regarding the real crisis in the Ukraine of that time (and since). This was the subject of news stories in 2014, the time of Hunter Biden’s alleged offenses.
The 2014 crisis was this: Russia was preparing to invade Eastern Ukraine, the Crimea, in advance of Ukraine’s parliamentary elections in September that year. The issue only made the international headlines, however, when Somebody (probably in Russia) leaked a telephone conversation between two US State Department officials. The two were discussing their (US administration) support of opposition parties and candidates for the Ukranian Parliament, in the context of trying to democratize the Ukraine, in coordination with officials in the United Nations, among others. (The ‘big news’ of that conversation — quite superficially — was when one of them openly said “Fuck the EU.”)
Today’s question, then, becomes: Was young Biden’s private linking-up with the energy firm Burisma in line with US and/or European foreign policy at the time? Or not? Was it, perhaps, simply unrelated — just as Donald Trump would like us to believe all his current, private business interests are unrelated to his policies today?* For today’s international community, the effect of this “big US news story” is to “damn both your (party) houses.” It is hastening further deterioration of the narrowing two-party democracy in the United States, in other words.
Here, I defer to the very good analysis of the BBC’s Jonathan Marcus, who said Russia’s release of the 2014 State Department phone call gave remarkable insight — which we need so badly now — into how US diplomats then conducted “a foreign policy process, with work going on at a number of levels.” For its part, Russian leaders hoped that their released tape of the conversation would show clear “US meddling in Europe” to justify their own sense of urgency to invade Eastern Ukraine during the election campaign.**
While they might have made a point, Marcus rightfully disparages the remarkable and growing institutional use of leaked information as propaganda or diplomacy — bypassing long-held norms of genuine institutional diplomacy. This “leak diplomacy” — or manipulated “fake news” propaganda campaigning — is something in which administrations in both the US and Russia are now fully engaged.
This is what’s startling to Europeans, caught in the middle: Donald Trump, with all his “dealing” and “tweeting,” continues to engage in a propaganda war against his own government and, by extension, a war against his own people.
*The president is certainly selective in the overseas private business interests that he supports — mostly those that serve his own. In his tweets against Hunter Biden, in other words, we have yet another example of the American president and his Republican Party practicing the Machiavellian political art of projecting their own sins onto others. (This really deserves more media study: For decades, US Republicans have blatantly accused Democratic opponents of various kinds of immorality and corruption — even launching Justice Department prosecutions — to mask their own.)
** “The US says that it is working with all sides in the crisis to reach a peaceful solution, noting that ‘ultimately it is up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future’. However this (leaked phone conversation) transcript suggests that the US has very clear ideas about what the outcome should be and is striving to achieve these goals. Russian spokesmen have insisted that the US is meddling in Ukraine’s affairs….” (Jonathan Marcus, BBC)