- - Wednesday, October 2, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Joe Biden just couldn’t quit Ukraine. When he served as vice president, Mr. Biden travelled more than once to Ukraine to strongarm the Slavic country into ousting its top prosecutor, one Victor Shokin. On his December 2015 visit to Kyiv and a subsequent March 2016 journey to the country, Mr. Biden brought with him what is commonly referred to as “leverage.” The Obama administration threatened to withhold aid from the country, unless they canned Mr. Shokin. A lot of aid, too: Some $1 billion in loan guarantees. That was a serious threat to war-torn Ukraine, which can at times barely keep its own lights on.

Why did the vice president want Mr. Shokin gone? Corruption, the story goes. Mr. Shokin was a notoriously venal figure, and that’s why it wasn’t only the Obama administration that wanted him out — the European Union, International Monetary Fund and other international bodies pined for his dismissal as well.

They were probably onto something. Ukraine is indeed a notoriously corrupt country. According to Transparency International, the NGO that tracks such things, Ukraine ranks 120 out of 180 countries worldwide on the perception of public corruption. It rates somewhere in the neighborhood of the Dominican Republic, Djibouti and Kazakhstan. Pakistan, Turkey, Panama are less corrupt than Ukraine, says Transparency International. (Placid Denmark is deemed the world’s least corrupt country, by the way.)

And indeed, the appointment of Hunter Biden, the vice president’s son, to a plum, $50,000-a month directorship at a Ukrainian natural gas company, while the senior Biden was still vice president, points to a country where corruption is the norm. And also, unfortunately, where competence and expertise aren’t: Prior to his appointment, Hunter Biden had exactly zero experience in the energy industry.

Was there something untoward in Hunter Biden’s appointment and the vice president’s subsequent pushing for Victor Shokin’s ouster? “No!,” the mainstream media and their Democratic allies cry. The Bidens have been “exonerated,” they say. It’s an answer that satisfies only if one doesn’t look too closely at who precisely did the exonerating.



That’s because it was none other than the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian government — a government so corrupt, you’ll recall, that Vice President Biden was quite right, we’re told, to travel there and bully the country into firing its prosecutor general — that issued the Bidens a clean bill of ethical health. This is the equivalent of Dr. Conrad Murray signing off on a physical wellness check.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general [Yuriy Lutsenko] said in an interview that he had no evidence of wrongdoing by U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden or his son,” Bloomberg News credulously reported in May. “The controversy stems from diplomatic actions by Biden while his son, Hunter Biden, sat on the board of Burisma Group, one of the country’s biggest private gas companies.

“I do not want Ukraine to again be the subject of U.S. presidential elections,’ Lutsenko said in an interview Tuesday in his office in Kiev. ‘Hunter Biden did not violate any Ukrainian laws — at least as of now, we do not see any wrongdoing,’” Bloomberg added.

Joe Biden is — inexplicably, in our view — the favorite to be the next president of the United States. He leads his Democratic rivals in polling for the nomination and is far ahead in head-to-head match ups against President Donald Trump. It stands to reason, therefore, that the Ukrainian government, which is still dependent on foreign assistance, might want to curry favor with the probable next president of the United States.

The full facts behind the Bidens’ activities in Ukraine have yet to emerge. But for now, it might be best to not take claims of “exoneration!” at face value.

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