USA: Republicans state view on Ukrainegate / News / News agency Inforos
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USA: Republicans state view on Ukrainegate

Biden's "potential conflict of interest" in Ukraine is no concern of local natives

USA: Republicans state view on Ukrainegate

Two weeks ago a document appeared, which can be called the Republican party's official viewpoint on "Ukrainegate". This 87-page report titled "Hunter Biden, Burisma, and Corruption" has been prepared by the Republican majority of Senate committees on Finance and on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. The document is certainly disadvantageous to current presidential candidate Joe Biden, but the senators did not dig too deep.

Thus, the report reveals that in 2014, son of the then US Vice President Hunter Biden, having become board member at the Ukrainian gas production company headed by tycoon Nikolai Zlochevsky, created "an immediate potential conflict of interest that would prove to become problematic for both US and Ukrainian officials and would affect the implementation of Ukraine policy." However, the report suggests this is a mere potential conflict, because there are no hints that Biden or other government officials have purposefully ensued to the benefit of Burisma. What they are accused of is ignoring information about such a conflict.

Then Deputy US Ambassador in Kiev and current Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent occasionally sent notes to his leadership about this. Then Secretary of State John Kerry was informed about such a situation back in May 2014 but chose to forget about it and declared in December 2019 that he knew nothing about Hunter Biden or Burisma. This, according to the Senators, became an outstanding example of "the extent to which officials within the Obama administration ignored the glaring signs when the vice president's son joined the board of a company owned by a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch."

And in October 2015, then State Department's Special Envoy & Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein personally told Biden and his son that Hunter Biden's position in Burisma helps Russia "sow disinformation", because it was reported by the media, which he considered "close to the Russian and corrupt oligarchs". Joe Biden, as reflected by the report, failed to provide any response. But the Senators made no tough conclusions here as they did in Kerry's case.

The authors also hint that Mykola Zlochevsky could have bribed the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office in 2014 with the privity of Vice President Biden's son. Kent believes Zlochevsky gave the Ukrainian Prosecutor General (it is not specified whether Oleg Makhnitsky or Vitaly Yarema, who replaced him in June 2014, is meant) 7 million dollars after the Vice President's son became Burisma board member. The report goes on to describe Hunter Biden's statement that his duties were to "consult the company on matters of transparency, corporate governance, and responsibility." "The committees requested information from the FBI about what, if any, actions it took in regard to this allegation. The FBI has not yet responded to that request."

However, regardless of whether Hunter Biden knew about this bribe, the episode cannot be imputed to the US Vice President. The Senators do not do this but accuse him of other things.

In September 2015, then US Ambassador to Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt spoke explicitly of Zlochevsky's illegally acquired assets arrested in the UK, and Biden did not elaborate on the issue. " In his December 2015 speech at the Rada, Vice President Biden told members to have courage to confront corruption and change the course of history for their country. Yet when it ca me to calling out an individual whom the State Department viewed as a 'corrupt and odious oligarch,' Vice President Biden’s staff advised him to not accuse Zlochevsky of corruption." "In December 2015, while in Ukraine Biden did not link Zlochevsky with corruption and did not demonstrate the same level of courageousness that he encouraged Ukrainian political leaders to pursue... Biden’s unwillingness to confront a man whom State officials considered to be an 'odious' oligarch demonstrated a lack of leadership, but also raises a serious question about why Vice President Biden would avoid linking Zlochevsky with corruption".

But in this case, I think, the former Vice President is still being picked on. After all, during Biden's visit to Kiev, he was not asked about Zlochevsky either publicly or in the shadows. Besides, naming undesirable (or desirable) people is not at all like American politicians of this level. Thus, the Vice-President's speech in the Rada did not feature any names of present-day Ukrainian public figures, except for Nadezhda Savchenko, who was imprisoned back then (and was нуе и a poor show as a politician).

Such a quibble intrinsically looks like a smoke screen to conceal the report's blur on its key episode. So, according to Biden's opponents, he insisted on the dismissal of Prosecutor General Shokin as engaged in the Burisma case (this is highlighted by the former head of the Prosecutor General's Office himself), and having achieved this goal, the case against the company was dismissed.

But this is the way the report treats the entire thing. The introductory part reads: "In 2016, Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, had an active and ongoing investigation into Burisma and its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky. According to news reports, then Vice President Biden “threatened to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss [Shokin]. After that threat, Ukraine’s Parliament fired Shokin." These claims are supported by references, and the Senators twice refer to a New York times article of May 1, 2019 by Kenneth Vogel and Yulia Mendel, with the latter to become President Zelensky's Press Secretary in a few weeks (she holds office to this day).

But there is an entirely different interpretation of this episode in conclusions to the report's Section 6 (where Biden is reproached for not having mentioned Zlochevsky). "Several witnesses highlighted efforts by certain U.S. officials to enable a successful investigation of Zlochevsky, and also noted that the U.S. decision to condition a $1 billion loan guarantee was made in part because of the then Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s failure to pursue a case against Zlochevsky." The same Kent directly emphasized that the idea to dismiss Shokin arose in the Embassy in Kiev over his failure to investigate the Burisma case. The Senators do not record this position as their own, but they argue with it and fail to mention Shokin's active inquiry into this case, limiting themselves to the following phrase: "But at the end of the day, between 2014 through 2017, despite the concerted effort of many U.S. officials, no t one of the three different Ukrainian prosecutor generals held Zlochevsky accountable".

At the same time, the report does not contain any examples of Americans' dissatisfaction with the lack of progress in the Burisma case when Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko replaced Shokin. It does not mention that all the proceedings against Burisma were closed by Lutsenko in late 2016, and only resumed in early 2019, although this closure is mentioned in Vogel and Mendel's article, which the report refers four times to.

That is, the Senators seek to avoid creating allegations that Biden promoted Shokin's resignation to close the Burisma cases. And this substantiated the potential conflict of interest.

I have several mutually consistent views of why reputable Republicans behaved like that. Perhaps they were uncomfortable about dealing such a blow to Biden, considering him the likely election winner they will have to work with. It is also possible that they stopped short of talking about it because of the lacking direct evidence of this lobbying. After all, the Burisma issue is not even raised in the transcripts of alleged conversations between Poroshenko and Biden released by Rada Deputy Andrey Derkach.

Finally, a third version is possible. The Senators assumed that the report should not damage the system of external governance of Ukraine. After all, even if Lutsenko did close the Burisma case under Biden's pressure through Poroshenko, it was harmful to articulate this circumstance. After all, the Senators will appear to be scolding the natives for following the orders of the white Sahibs. Bad orders, as viewed by other Sahibs. However, one shouldn't create an impression with the natives that they are able to independently evaluate such orders. It is none of their business, they just need to follow instructions, without fear of being criticized for improper diligence.

I'm probably exaggerating but the fear of playing up to "Russian disinformation" is exceedingly obvious in the report. A third of its text is devoted to refuting the Democrats' views that the reporters do spread this very disinformation. It is constantly emphasized that the document is exceptionally based on American sources, but the Democrats quoted this disinformation and did actively contact Ukrainian citizen Andrey Telizhenko, who is now involved in the "Russian disinformation campaign". 2016 saw Telizhenko work at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, then with the Democratic-affiliated consulting firm Blue Star Strategies, which also worked with Hunter Biden, while last year he began assisting Trump's lawyer Rudolph Giuliani.

The entire report is permeated with contempt for Telizhenko and Derkach, who got involved in the American wrangles. The latter is directly called a Russian agent (sitting in the Rada since Kuchma, Derkach virtually aligned with any government; during Euromaidan, he left the Party of Region's faction a few hours before Yanukovych fled Kiev). But the genuine fault of both is certainly that they allowed themselves too much for the natives. However, the Senators did not exhibit much offbeat here. In August, the State Department canceled Telizhenko's entry visa, while the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Derkach for trying to affect the presidential election, also stating that the deputy "has been an active Russian agent for over a decade. And on October 5, Press Secretary of the US Embassy in Kiev Daniel Langenkamp explained that people or organizations providing financial support to Derkach may be put under sanctions.

Ukraine mockingly interpreted the last phrase as a hint for sanctions to be imposed against the entire Rada, where the abovementioned deputy is paid his salary. But I think Langenkamp's words allude to Derkach's Kiev meeting with Giuliani last December, after which the deputy said he discussed the creation of the inter-parliamentary group "Friends of Ukraine STOP corruption".

One can naturally wonder how the current US President is going to retain power amid such sentiments among his establishment and officials of his party. But that's a different kind of story.

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