How the Ukraine Ended Up at the Center of American Politics
It’s all about the energy.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
The average American working out in a gym while being forced to endure CNN talking heads yammering about Ukraine has to wonder why a country he knows so very little about is all over Washington D.C.
How did a minor country intersect with three presidential campaigns, those of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump, the Mueller investigation and the business dealings of the Biden clan?
Ukraine’s government is a dysfunctional oligarchy that exists in a state of permanent conflict between billionaires, energy interests, nationalists, Russian front groups, European front groups and street thugs. To make matters more confusing, some of those categories overlap and sometimes shift back and forth.
The Ukraine is one of the poorest countries in the region. Its per capita income is miserable. Its life expectancy is slightly higher than that of Syria. Its real prize is a complex energy sector interwoven with those of Russia and the European Union. Every reason why Ukraine has been in the news comes back to that energy sector and its role in the power balance between Russia, Europe and the United States.
Without that energy sector, the Ukraine would have wallowed quietly in a morass of corruption. Instead its scandals touch off explosions in Moscow, Brussels and Washington D.C. because they originate there.
That’s why the origin of the latest Ukraine scandal begins, unsurprisingly, with an energy company.
Burisma Holdings, the energy company, paid Hunter Biden, Joe’s son, $50,000 a month to sit on its board. That’s not a commonplace arrangement. But energy companies in that part of the world are never just private companies. They’re closely linked to political interests and political leaders.
The company that was paying Biden’s son a cool $50K a month was founded by a businessman who had been the Minister of Natural Resources in the Yanukovich government. The Yanukovich government, which was pro-Russian, was forced out by nationalist and pro-EU activist protests. Yanukovich fled to Russia and Putin responded to the fall of his government by invading the Ukraine and annexing Crimea.
And Crimea is all about the pipelines.
Yanukovich’s party employed American political consultants from across the spectrum including Tony Podesta, the brother of Hillary’s campaign chair, Tad Devine, Bernie Sanders’ chief political strategist, and Paul Manafort, briefly Trump’s campaign chair. While Podesta won’t be charged and Devine got off, Manafort had the book thrown at him because our political class and the Russian and Ukrainian political classes have more than a few things in common. And the similarities are only growing.
The Manafort case was collateral damage from the infighting between Ukraine’s old government and its new government. But Democrat operatives seized on the Ukrainian scandals because of their potential usefulness to their anti-Trump cause, ignoring Podesta and Devine, while focusing on Manafort.
Last year, three Senate Democrats, including Senator Bob Menendez, who had faced a corruption trial a year before, sent a letter demanding that the Ukrainian government aid in their investigations of Manafort, and by extension Trump, or lose foreign aid. Despite claims by Senator Leahy, Senator Menendez, and Senator Durbin, that the investigations weren’t yielding the desired results because of pressure by the Trump administration, the Ukrainians did not care about Trump or Manafort.
They were out to settle scores with Yanukovich, his Party of Regions, and their political allies.
The Biden family had similarly been entangled in a Ukrainian investigation of the economic and political networks of the Yanukovich government which led, among other places, to Burisma and Hunter Biden.
That may have led Vice President Joe Biden to aggressively pressure the Ukrainian government to fire Viktor Shokin, its top prosecutor. "I looked at them and said, 'I'm leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you're not getting the money.' Well, son of a b --. He got fired,” he had boasted.
Biden wasn’t the only one who had wanted Shokin gone. Pro-EU elements had wanted the same thing.
And that’s the great challenge of Ukraine’s scandals, understanding the intersection between politics, ideology and financial interests. Ukraine is in the midst of a struggle between nationalists, the EU and Russia, and between corrupt financial interests on all sides trying to get their hands on its industries.
With corrupt political interests in Washington D.C. and Moscow intertwining national interests and private economic interests, the Ukraine is the ultimate swamp. And the money has kept moving both ways. Just ask Tony Podesta and Hunter Biden. Both of whom were entangled with the Russian boogeyman that the Democrats can’t seem to see when they’re the ones making the rubles.
Today’s Ukraine resembles The Third Man’s vision of Vienna. It’s a convoluted nest of spies, information brokers, and corrupt financial interests, that’s in the middle of a tug of war between two superpowers. And its chaos and corruption resemble Russia after the fall of Communism and before control of the country was consolidated by Vladimir Putin, former KGB personnel and their billionaire oligarch allies.
Ukraine embodies the worst of the region before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. And America and Russia have both been sucked into it by mixing politics and business, as the Clintons and the Bidens did.
Democrats and Republicans have held out hope that Ukrainian investigations would produce something useful, but the only thing they have produced and will go on producing is more corruption. A corrupt system can’t investigate itself. Ukraine’s prosecutorial system is at the heart of the corruption.
There’s nothing to be found in the Ukraine except a convoluted network of overlapping agendas, secret bank accounts, bribes, front men, paid agents and foreign operatives going all the way to the bottom.
A true swamp has no bottom. The Ukrainian swamp has no bottom. Let’s hope that ours does.
That ought to be a warning to anyone on either side expecting the FBI or independent prosecutors to fix this. Washington D.C. isn’t as bad as Kiev, but the FBI, the DOJ and assorted judicial and prosecutorial bodies have been hopelessly tangled in political corruption and serve their own political interests.
To most Americans, the Ukraine may be obscure and far away, but its political scandals not only intersect with our own, increasingly they have begun to predict them. Only on a much larger scale.
The Democrats have built much of their campaign against President Trump around Ukrainian political scandals. The irony is that they have adopted Ukraine as their political model. The political consultants who went to Ukraine brought its culture of corruption back here. And we’re all living with it now.
Ukraine is an energy industry battlefield. So is America.
Some of the biggest backers of impeaching President Trump are in the green energy business. Trump’s backing for oil and coal lit a fire under our economy, but it’s been bad news for the folks who make money from subsidized renewables and, even more shamefully, carbon credits. If Trump loses, they win.
Not just ideologically, but economically, to the tune of more billions of dollars than you can count.
The pipelines in question are legal and virtual, but, as proposals like the Green New Deal demonstrate, they are more inescapable systems of control than any conventional pipeline could ever be. Like the pipelines, they consolidate control, create dependency and build a corrupt energy monopoly.
After the fall of the old Ukrainian government, Burisma, the energy company that was paying Hunter Biden $50,000 a month, got into the green energy business. A year later, Burisma had started the Energy Security Forum to promote “green energy”. The speakers included former Senator Landrieu.
And, of course, Hunter Biden.
By then, Burisma, once aligned with Russia, had become thoroughly enmeshed in the European Union.
Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.