Corruption and Bad Judgment Since Late 2013

2010 Ukraine Election Map. Blue shades favored pro-Russian policies.
2010 Ukraine Election Map. Blue shades favored pro-Russian policies.

On September 23, 2020, U.S. Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, released a report that revealed millions of dollars in questionable financial transactions between Hunter Biden and his associates and foreign individuals, including the wife of the former mayor of Moscow and individuals with ties to the Chinese Communist Party, as well as his highly paid consulting in Ukraine. Of particular concern is the conflict of interests arising from Hunter Biden accepting a position on the board of, and taking millions of dollars from, Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company with a long-standing reputation for corruption, while his father, Joe Biden, was vice president and the public face of the Obama administration’s handling of Ukraine policy. 

Below are the first two paragraphs of the Senate report’s executive summary.

“In late 2013 and into 2014, mass protests erupted in Kyiv, Ukraine, demanding integration into western economies and an end to systemic corruption that had plagued the country. At least 82 people were killed during the protests, which culminated on Feb. 21 when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych abdicated by fleeing the country. Less than two months later, over the span of only 28 days, significant events involving the Bidens unfolded.”

“On April 16, 2014, Vice President Biden met with his son’s business partner, Devon Archer, at the White House. Five days later, Vice President Biden visited Ukraine, and he soon after was described in the press as the “public face of the administration’s handling of Ukraine.” Just days after his visit, on April 22, Archer joined the board of Burisma. On April 28, British officials seized $23 million from the London bank accounts of Burisma’s owner, Mykola Zlochevsky. Fourteen days later, on May 12, Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma, and over the course of the next several years, Hunter Biden and Devon Archer were paid millions of dollars from a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch for their participation on the board. The 2014 protests in Kyiv came to be known as the Revolution of Dignity—a revolution against corruption in Ukraine. Following that revolution, Ukrainian political figures were desperate for U.S. support. Zlochevsky would have made sure relevant Ukrainian officials were well aware of Hunter’s appointment to Burisma’s board as leverage. Hunter Biden’s position on the board created an immediate potential conflict of interest that would prove to be problematic for both U.S. and Ukrainian officials and would affect the implementation of Ukraine policy.”

In 2014, at the time this was taking place, Barack Obama was President of the United States, Joe Biden was Vice President, and John Kerry was Secretary of State, just having replaced Hillary Clinton. Victoria Nuland was Assistant Secretary of State and Ambassador to Ukraine. Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s current National Security Advisor, had been Vice President Biden’s National Security Advisor since 2013. Geoffrey Pyatt was Ambassador to Ukraine from July 2013 to August 2016.

As I have frequently pointed out, about 17 percent of Ukrainians are Russian speaking ethnic Russians. I am not sure whether this includes Crimea and the Donbas republics, which are over 70 percent Russian. Only about 15 percent of Crimeans are ethnic Ukrainians.  American Russian scholar Gilbert Doctorow believes that including Crimea and Donbas, Ukraine is about 60 percent Ukrainian and 40 percent Russian. If you look at the February 2010 Ukraine runoff election map where Viktor Yanukovych defeated Yulia Tymoshenko 49 to 45 percent, you will see a clear demarcation dividing Eastern and Southern Black Sea oblasts (states) from Western Ukraine.  Yanukovych is usually portrayed as pro-Russian, but Doctorow believes Yanukovych felt he needed to balance his policies between Western Ukraine and Eastern and Southern Ukraine.

Yanukovych, who had been Prime Minister, had apparently won election to the Ukrainian presidency in 2004 by 49.4 percent to Viktor Yushchenko’s 46.9 percent, which showed the same sharp division between Western Ukraine and Eastern and Southern Ukraine. Western and Central Ukraine were part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 17th Century. Lviv, a cultural center of western Ukraine, 40 miles from the present Polish border, was the fourth largest city in the Austria-Hungary Empire until the end of World War I.  Its former name was Lemberg.  It was part of Poland until the Soviet Union ceased it in September 1939. Yanukovych’s apparent election, however, evidenced considerable vote fraud and suspicious vote counting. There was even an attempt to poison Yushchenko. These election irregularities resulted in civil disobedience, strikes, and huge public protests with crowds in the hundreds of thousands. This has been termed the “Orange Revolution.” The Ukrainian Supreme Court voided the election and called for a new election. This time Yushchenko defeated Yanukovych 52 to 45 percent. Yanukovych, however, was elected in 2010.

In November 2013, during Yanukovych’s presidential term, another wave of large-scale protests, known as Euromaidan, erupted in response to President Yanukovych's sudden decision not to sign a trade association agreement with the European Union (EU), which had already been approved by the Ukrainian parliament. There had been considerable Russian pressure, including a $15 billion loan and cheaper natural gas, to coax Ukraine into the Russian dominated Eurasian  Economic Union. The EU did not come near matching it and was perhaps  reluctant because of Ukraine’s reputation for political corruption. In January and February 2014, the “Maidan Revolution” resulted in huge and often violent crowds, sometimes taking over government buildings, and protesting corruption, Russian influence, alleged abuse of power, and police brutality. (Maidan means a large public square.) This peaked from February 18 to February 23, leaving Independence Square in Kyiv in the hands of the protestors after police withdrawal.

Hundreds of thousands of protestors clashed with security police on February 18, resulting in 82 deaths, including 13 police. The protest leaders, marching towards the Parliament building, carried shields and wore helmets, indicating the protests were highly organized. The civilian death toll rose to 108 by February 22. Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov resigned.  Of 450 members of Parliament, 328 voted 328 to 0 to remove Yanukovych from office. Yanukovych fled and asked Russia for help. The Maidan Revolution is now known as the “Revolution of Dignity,”  but many including Russian expert Gilbert Doctorow, believe it was a coup d’état engineered by the United States State Department. According to a 2018 survey by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, 56 percent of Ukrainians believe the Revolution was a popular revolution, but 34 percent believe it was an “illegal armed coup.” Doctorow is not  a Russian propagandist. He is an American and a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard and has a Ph.D. with honors from Columbia University.  He is a libertarian who appreciates many of Donald Trump’s foreign and domestic policies. He has more than 25 years of business experience dealing with Russia and Eastern Europe and is the author of several books on Russia and international affairs.

The consequences of the “Revolution of Dignity” were the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, with its geographically strategic naval advantage on the Black Sea, and separatist war in Donbas. Importantly, Putin believes the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution was a U.S. engineered coup d’état backed by key NATO members, which essentially made Ukraine an anti-Russian U.S. satellite state. Biden’s ability to have Ukraine’s Chief Prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, fired in 2016 for looking into Hunter Biden’s highly paid activities with Burisma Energy certainly smacks of treating Ukraine as an American satellite.

On February 4, 2014, the Russians intercepted and leaked a conversation between Assistant Secretary of State and Ukraine Ambassador Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt, the new Ambassador to Ukraine from July 2013 to August 2016. They are heard discussing their desire for regime change and preferred leaders. Nuland said, “I think Yats (Yatsenyuk) is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience…. We want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing.”

Indeed, it was Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who became interim leader as Prime Minister of Ukraine on February 27. Oleksandr Turchynov became interim President on February 21 and served until billionaire oligarch Petro Poroshenko was elected on May 25 with 55 percent of the vote and inaugurated as president on June 7. Poroshenko served until May 2019, when Volodymyr Zelensky swept the presidential election with 73 percent of the vote. This, of course, excluded 12 percent of the former Ukrainian population residing in Crimea and the Donbas republics.  

Before 1995, Ukraine had the third largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world, left over from the Soviet Union, which was dissolved in 1991. The codes for their use, however, remained in the hands of the Russian Federation.

Under the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, concerning non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan on December 5, 1994, Ukraine gave up these nuclear weapons and committed to the Budapest Memorandum policy halting proliferation of nuclear weapons.  

According to the Kyiv Independent,  on March 19, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking at a security conference in Munich, Germany, demanded that the US, UK, and Russian Federation give greater guarantees to Ukraine’s security, or he would consider the 1994 Budapest Memorandum void. Just how Zelensky would assess nuclear weapons and from whom was an obvious question asked by the Kyiv Independent. It is impossible to believe that the Russians would not take this as a reinforcement of their own security concerns about Ukraine’s growing anti-Russian alliance with NATO. The Russian Federation has a 1,426-mile border with Ukraine.

Of course, this was hardly reported in the West, but it may be a factor that edged Vladimir Putin to execute his invasion plans.

The Minsk Agreements of September 5, 2014, and February 12, 2015, signed by Russia, Ukraine, and representatives of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics, and moderated by Swiss, German, and French representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)  in Minsk, Belarus, attempted to stop the fighting in the Donbas region of southeastern Ukraine. It did not work, and the fighting between the Ukrainian Army and Donetsk and Luhansk rebels did not cease. The population of the two Donbas republics is about 70 percent Russian. This agreement consisted of twelve measures including a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line, and constitutional reform in Ukraine granting self-government to the two Donbas Republics. There was no Ukrainian constitutional action on self-government for the Donbas Republics, and the Ukrainian Army continued almost daily artillery strikes into rebel held areas. More than 14,000 people have been killed in the ongoing Donbas war since the Minsk agreements. About 4,000 were civilians. About 500 were Russian soldiers and the rest about equally divided between the Ukrainian Army and Donbas rebels. On February 21, 2022, the Russian Federal Legislature and President Putin proclaimed the Minsk Agreements void and recognized the independence of the Donbas republics with the right of the Russian armed forces to build and use military bases there. Putin blamed the failure of the Minsk agreements on Zelensky and other anti-Russian Ukrainian politicians.

Joe Biden’s catastrophic disaster in Afghanistan withdrawal and his imposition of Critical Race Theory and other debilitating Social Marxist nonsense on the U.S. armed forces has provided a near irresistible opportunity for Vladimir Putin to embolden aggressive action in Ukraine, perhaps even to seriously miscalculate the consequences. Putin must also be encouraged that almost everything Biden does is a catastrophe. But Biden and his gang of incompetents have been planting and seeding catastrophe in Ukraine at least since late 2013.