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By Rabbi Yeshaia Charles Familant
On this site, I previously erred in presenting a presumed “objective” blog by John Solomon. I later acknowledged my mistake by concluding that Solomon fabricated a frequently iterated lie that as Vice President, Joe Biden, arranged to have fired a Ukrainian General Prosecutor for attempting to investigate the possible corruption of Burisma Group, self described as Ukraine’s largest natural gas producer in that country, and upon whose board of directors, at that time, sat Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. I rescinded my article after reading what I considered a more authoritative account (which I attached to my rescission). Moreover, I discovered that Solomon is a right-wing supporter of Donald Trump and an occasional guest on Fox News’ Sean Hannity Show, which is hardly known for its factual reporting.
However, after acknowledging that neither Joe Biden nor his son had committed an illegal act, my clarification did not sit easy with me. I came across a more reliable and enlightening source. Max Blumenthal, an award winning journalist, author of many books, has written a piece on Joe Biden’s close relationship with the think-tank, the Atlantic Council, and its intimate relationship with the now infamous Burisma Group. Blumenthal’s piece is posted on Consortium News (10/14/2019), excerpts from which I shall include here. The entire article may be found on consortiumnews.com.
From the article:
With its relentless focus on corruption in Russia and Ukraine, the Atlantic Council has distinguished itself from other top-flight think tanks in Washington. Over the past several years, it has held innumerable conferences and panel discussions, issued a string of reports, and published literally hundreds of essays on Russia’s “kleptocracy” and the scourge of Kremlin disinformation.
At the same time, this institution has posed as a faithful partner to Ukraine’s imperiled democracy, organizing countless programs on the urgency of economic reforms to tamp down on corruption in the country.
But behind the curtain, the Atlantic Council has initiated a lucrative relationship with a corruption-tainted Ukrainian gas company, the Burisma Group, that is worth as much as $250,000 a year. The partnership has paid for lavish conferences in Monaco and helped bring Burisma’s oligarchic founder out of the cold.
This alliance has remained stable even as official Washington goes to war over allegations by President Donald Trump and his allies that former Vice President Joseph Biden fired a Ukrainian prosecutor to defend his son’s handsomely compensated position on Burisma’s board.
As Biden parries Trump’s accusations, some of the former vice president’s most ardent defenders are emerging from the halls of the Atlantic Council, which featured Biden as a star speaker at its awards ceremonies over the years.
These advocates include Michael Carpenter, Biden’s longtime foreign policy advisor and specialist on Ukraine, who has taken to the national media to support his embattled boss.
Even as Burisma’s trail of influence-buying finds its way into front page headlines, the Atlantic Council’s partnership with the company is scarcely mentioned. Homing in on the partisan theater of “Ukrainegate” and tuning out the wider landscape of corruption, the Beltway press routinely runs quotes from Atlantic Council experts on the scandal without acknowledging their employer’s relationship with Hunter Biden’s former employer.
The Atlantic Council functions as the semi-official think tank of NATO in Washington. As such, it cultivates relationships with well-established policymakers who take a hard line against Russia and support the treaty organization’s perpetual expansion.
Biden has been among the think tank’s most enthusiastic and well-placed allies.
In 2011, then-Vice President Biden delivered the keynote address at the Atlantic Council’s distinguished leadership awards. He returned to the think tank again in 2014 for another keynote at its “Toward A Europe Whole and Free” conference, which was dedicated to expanding NATO’s influence and countering “Russian aggression.”
Biden emphasized the need to power Europe with non-Russian sources of natural gas. This provided a prime opportunity to Ukrainian suppliers like Burisma and U.S. energy titans. Many of these energy companies, from Chevron to Noble Energy, also happen to be top donors to the Atlantic Council.
“This would be a game-changer for Europe, in my view, and we’re ready to do everything in our power to help it happen,” Biden promised his audience.
At the time, the Atlantic Council was pushing to ramp up the proxy war against pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. In 2015, for instance, the think tank helped prepare a proposal for arming the Ukrainian military with offensive weaponry like Javelin anti-tank missiles.
Given that the Atlantic Council has been funded by the two manufacturers of the Javelin system, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, this created at least the appearance of a conflict of interest. In fact, the think tank presented its Distinguished Business Leadership Award to Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson that same year.
By February 2014, the Maidan revolt had succeeded in overthrowing President Viktor Yanukovich with the help of far-right ultra-nationalist street muscle. With a new, U.S.-approved government in power, Biden assumed a personal role in dictating Ukraine’s day-to-day affairs.
“No one in the U.S. government has wielded more influence over Ukraine than Vice President Joe Biden,” Foreign Policy noted. The Atlantic Council also described Biden as “the point person on Ukraine in the Obama administration.”
The ouster of Yanukovych put the founder and president of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky, in a delicate spot. Zlochevsky had served as the environment minister under Yanukovych, handing out gas licenses to cronies. Having watched the president flee Ukraine for his life, currying favor with the Obama administration was paramount for Zlochevsky.
He was also desperate to get out of legal trouble. At the time, a corruption investigation in the U.K. had resulted in the freezing of $23 million of Zlochevsky’s assets. Then, in August 2014, the oligarch was forced to follow Yanukovych into exile after being accused of illegally enriching himself.
The need to refurbish Burisma’s tattered image, as well as his own, prompted Zlochevsky to resort to a tried and true tactic for shadowy foreign entities: forking over large sums of money to win friends in Washington. Hunter Biden and the Atlantic Council were soon to become two of his best friends.
During his 2017 press conference in Kiev, Biden seemed oblivious to the trends that were driving Ukraine into ruin. He encouraged Ukraine’s leadership to continue on an IMF-led path of privatization and austerity.
He then urged Kiev to “press forward with energy reforms that are eliminating Ukraine’s dependence on Russian gas,” once again advancing policy that would serve as a boon to the energy firms plowing their cash into the Atlantic Council.
Throughout Biden’s tenure as the “point person” on Ukraine, one figure was constantly by his side: Michael Carpenter, a former Pentagon specialist on Eastern Europe who became a key adviser to Biden on the National Security Council. When Carpenter traveled with Biden to Ukraine in 2015, he helped provide the vice president with talking points throughout his trip.
Once Trump was inaugurated, Carpenter followed fellow members of the Democratic foreign policy apparatus into the think tank world. He accepted a fellowship at the Atlantic Council, and assumed a position as senior director of newly founded Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, which provided office space to Biden when he was in Washington.
At the Jan. 23, 2018 Council on Foreign Relations event where Biden made his now-notorious comments about threatening the Ukrainian government with the withdrawal of a one billion dollar loan if it did not fire Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin – “well son of a bitch, he got fired!” Biden exclaimed – Carpenter was by his side, rattling off tough talking points about Russian interference. [Shokin testified under oath that Biden had him fired because he was investigating Burisma.]
As the furor over “Ukrainegate” continues, Biden and his allies are soldiering ahead, insisting that scrutiny of his activities in Ukraine constitute nothing more than a vast right-wing conspiracy.
Meanwhile, the Beltway press shrugs at Burisma’s buying of influence at a powerful think tank intertwined with Biden’s political operation.
Russia might be a “kleptocracy” and Ukraine might endemically corrupt, but in Washington, this is all business as usual.
On stage at @CFR_org right now, Joe Biden pushing a distinctly neocon line on Russia. A blunt defense of his role in pushing NATO expansion, dismissal of its role in antagonizing Russia and calls for encouraging/backing internal opposition to Putin.