Real geopolitical challenges are facing the next American president: North Korea, Turkey, Iran and China, for example. One hopes that this is where a Biden-Harris-led focus will be, rather than on convenient distractions and comfort zones called Russia.
One can fantasize that Joseph R. Biden as the next president, whether he won or not, will appease the mobs still on the rampage over Hillary Clinton’s defeat and reduce their continuing fixation with the Russian scapegoat. After all, it’s not the Russian virus we’re getting a vaccine for, and it wasn’t a Russian spy whom Rep. Eric Swalwell hired as a fundraiser and took an intern recommendation from.
But then reality sets in because we’ve been here before. In 1999, Chinese spies were running rampant at the State Department and American universities; North Korea was discovered to be continuing building the nuclear reactor we paid it to abandon; and Islamic terrorism was striking with increasing ferocity. So Bill Clinton bombed Yugoslavia.
It caused some head-scratching even on editorial pages that twice endorsed Mr. Clinton and went along with his war and “Maddie’s War,” as it was dubbed for the secretary of state who desperately wanted it, Madeleine K. Albright. Meanwhile, her response to the Chinese spies swarming around Foggy Bottom? “Raise your hand if you’re a spy,” she joked at a presser.
In contrast, the Serbs “posed no conceivable threat to Western interests,” author Gregory M. Davis explained in 2009, “so there was no danger in antagonizing them.” A commentary by Tony Rubolatta in TheRant.us had gone a level deeper in 2004: “The calculation was simple. Bombing a Christian nation could be done with relative impunity. There would be no ‘Christian outrage’ as there might be in the Muslim world.”
Russia is that next Christian, politically safe target. It’s just easier than everything else a President Biden will have to deal with. As former senior State Department adviser Christian Whiton put it about drug cartels that kill 70,000 Americans a year: “What if you can’t address those? What if you’re Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and you can’t say anything too bad about China? What if going after radical Islam is not politically correct?” he posited on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” in November 2019. “You need something to sound tough. OK, so Russia is there.”
At this, Mr. Biden is an old hand, which his late son, Beau Biden, reminded us in 2008, when he was chest-thumping for his dad at the Democratic National Convention: “And when Serbian thugs were committing genocide in the Balkans, Dad didn’t hesitate to call Slobodan Milosevic a war criminal to his face. And to convince Congress and our allies to act.”
It’s of a piece with the swagger Joe cuts when he talks “tough” at whatever wieldy white, Christian Slavs we’ve wrangled under our thumb, most famously: “And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev. And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee,” he told a Council on Foreign Relations audience in January 2018. “And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor” Viktor Shokin, who was looking into corruption allegations against Burisma Holdings, the energy company paying son Hunter Biden $50,000 a month. “And they didn’t. … 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 bitch. (Laughter) He got fired.”
We talk to those “poor cousins” of Europe in ways we never would to heads of states that are less like us. It’s an attitude that has pervaded a quarter century of U.S. policy in the Balkans, where we use bribery, blackmail, bullying and bombs to make those folks get with the program.
“The heart of the problem has been what appears to be a determination of the United States policymakers, whether Democrat or Republican, to look upon the Western Balkans as their special fiefdom where international rules of conduct do not apply,” wrote James Bissett, Canada’s former ambassador to Yugoslavia, Albania and Bulgaria, on the 10th anniversary of the NATO attack on Yugoslavia. “It is as if they regard these Slavic lands as lesser breeds [and act] without the law and therefore can do with them whatever they deem desirable.” Mr. Biden has been at the forefront of these deadly shenanigans. “As a senator in the 1990s, Joe Biden was one of the most militant advocates of U.S. military action against Serbs during the breakup of the Yugoslav federation,” former Senate Republican adviser Jim Jatras wrote in October for Strategic Cultural Foundation. “Channeling his inner John McCain, Biden continually called for the U.S. to bomb, bomb, bomb the Serbs while he … pushed successfully for sending weapons to the Islamist regime in Bosnia and then for the U.S. to arm the Islamo-narco-terrorist group known as the ‘Kosovo Liberation Army’ (KLA).
“Joe Biden was the primary sponsor of the March 1999 Kosovo war authorization for military action against Serbia and Montenegro. … But for Jihad Joe even that wasn’t punishment enough for people he collectively demonized as ‘illiterate degenerates, baby killers, butchers, and rapists.’ In May 1999, at the height of the NATO air assault, he called for the introduction of U.S. ground troops (‘we should announce there’s going to be American casualties’) followed by ‘a Japanese-German style occupation.’” A decade later, in an odd coincidence, when Kosovo’s Orthodox Ruling Bishop Artemije — one of the province’s few Serbian remnants — wouldn’t give his blessing for Vice President Biden to visit the Visoki Decani monastery, he “was forcibly removed by police and exiled from his see,” Mr. Jatras continued, “without ecclesiastical trial, by church authorities in Belgrade under pressure from compliant Serbian politicians installed after the October 2000 color revolution, in turn pressured by NATO. The pretext? Transparently baseless charges of financial wrongdoing. In other words, bogus accusations of ‘corruption’ — like against Ukraine’s Shokin.”
So we know what to expect from a Joe Biden presidency vis-a-vis Eastern Europe. So far in this postelection world, it’s not looking good if Democrats who call themselves media and Democrats who call themselves Republicans are any indication. NBC News 3 Live in Las Vegas reported Sunday night that President Trump “blamed China for a cyberattack on several government agencies and contractors,” but the network quickly kept us on track with: “The Defense Department, CIA and NSA have all determined Russian intelligence was behind the attacks.” The channel then threw it to the always-forgettable Mitt Romney for the generic Trump-Russia quote: “I think we’ve come to recognize that the president has a blind spot when it comes to Russia.” In other words, because Donald Trump still resists the Russian camouflage for the establishment’s China dependency, he’s the one with the “blind spot.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, told Tucker Carlson in April, “We saw the Democrats overhype the Russia threat. Now many are cozying up to China.” That combination is not incidental. The connection was clear enough to columnist Ann Coulter, who in March 2017 wrote that the Democratic left “could never forgive Russia for giving up communism.”
That leaves China as their great red hope, albeit subsidized by capitalism. Yes, it’s all a bit more mercenary these days, moving from our left’s communist sympathy to a hybrid of that and the lowest expression of capitalism, as Mr. Carlson brought up in the same program: “We need a reckoning with people like Madeleine Albright, who’ve gotten rich flacking for China.”
Indeed, during the impeachment hearings late last year, Mr. Carlson alone made a point of dredging up this swamp-revered Foggy Bottom graduate who “left that office, set up a consulting firm and got rich from China. How are you allowed to leave high levels of government service,” he asked, “collaborate with our enemies, get rich in the process, and not one person in the presser or official Washington ever mentions it? … Instead, this endless parade of washed-up bureaucrats and Foreign Service officers is lecturing me about Russia. They are missing the threat, it seems to me.”
That is the whole point. Real threats are hard; false ones are easy. That’s why we manufacture them. Of course, one needn’t reach as far back as Ms. Albright for an example. The Hunter-gatherers Biden aside, Mr. Carlson cited former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as another of “these people who squire CEOs through China and other sorts of adversaries of the United States, get rich and then come back and accuse Donald Trump of being unpatriotic.”
Just this weekend, author Peter Schweizer tossed us a few more examples. In an interview with Maria Bartiromo, he said, “There are a lot of powerful people in D.C. who want the Hunter Biden story to go away because it has potentially direct implications on themselves. The fact of the matter is that [Mitch McConnell’s wife’s] shipping business has its ship purchases financed by the Chinese government, its ship constructions are built by the Chinese government, its crews are raised by the Chinese government, and most of its contracts are shipping goods from Chinese state-owned enterprises. So if Mitch McConnell did something the Chinese didn’t like, they could destroy that family business.”
Then there’s House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, who “has done a series of deals in mainland China. … [Dianne Feinstein’s husband] “has been doing deals for 25 years in mainland China and has benefited from private meetings that Sen. Feinstein had with the highest levels.”
It amounts to a Chinese government attempt to “decapitate our political leadership by giving sweetheart deals to the family members of our political class,” and Mr. Schweizer asks the relevant question: “The question is, are we going to do something about it or let it pass?”
Between the Bidens’ China problem and the president-elect’s promise to harden Washington’s stance against Moscow and reaffirm U.S. support for NATO, we’ve already got the 1999 blueprint for the most likely scenario. A pivot to Russia. Which, to the American mind, also doesn’t have a racial hurdle for us the way China does.
In an Aug. 30th interview with Ms. Bartiromo, John Ratcliffe revealed that when he briefs Congress on election security threats posed by China, Russia and others, lawmakers immediately start leaking just the Russia parts to the press. “Within minutes of one of those briefings ending, a number of members of Congress went to a number of different outlets and leaked classified information for political purposes, to create a narrative that simply isn’t true, that somehow Russia is a greater national security threat than China.”
As the military-industrial complex high-fives itself over the Biden “victory,” it — and Mr. Biden — mustn’t mistake the Russians for Serbs because there is absolutely a risk in antagonizing the Russians. They are not wieldy, and they won’t let us off the hook as easily as less-powerful Serbia did.
Julia Gorin was a Soviet refusenik who came to the U.S. in 1976. She is the editor of “Hillarisms: The Unmaking of the First Female President.”