Vladimir Putin didn’t need the green light that Joe Biden gave Russian forces during his marathon press conference last Thursday for a “minor incursion” into Ukraine. The Russian president already knew the U.S. commander in chief couldn’t stop him even if he wanted to. Sure, Putin has seen the polling and knows foreign entanglements won’t help a Democrat hemorrhaging support from his own party.
But that doesn’t seem to be all. You don’t need a secret dossier authored by a British ex-spy for hire like Christopher Steele to understand the possible weird real-world mirror version of Russiagate. This time, it’s basically all out in the open—or at least it was, until the press and social media scrubbed reports of Hunter Biden’s laptop from the internet in the run-up to the 2020 election. The laptop, whose provenance and contents have both since checked out beyond any shadow of doubt, give evidence of Hunter’s financial relationships with foreign officials and businesses, like the more than $50,000 per month he got for sitting on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, starting in the spring of 2014.
The reason that a company like Burisma was willing to pay the drug-addled son of the vice president of the United States so much money for a no-show job wasn’t to buy his expertise in natural gas exploration and drilling, of course. Hunter Biden’s sordid memoir, Beautiful Things, published last year, makes it clear that, during the period in question, he was a wreck of a human being who spent lavishly on crack and methamphetamine, which he consumed in expensive hotel rooms in the company of prostitutes. It would seem that the obvious point of paying Hunter Biden was to buy protection from the American official in charge of Ukraine policy—Joe Biden.
Did it work? Well, according to the now president, yes. As Biden told a 2018 audience, he threatened to withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine unless the government in Kyiv fired a prosecutor investigating the company that was paying his son a princely retainer to fuel his drug habit.
At the time Hunter Biden’s laptop first surfaced, U.S. media and spy services claimed it was “Russian disinformation”—a fake, aimed at harming his father’s election prospects. It wasn’t, of course, as Hunter’s subsequent memoir and former business associates have confirmed. The effort to cast aspersions on the origins of the laptop, censor reports about it, and/or label reporting on its contents “disinformation” was itself a “disinformation” operation waged by American media and tech platforms in a real-world example of “election interference,” as well as a massive in-kind contribution to Joe Biden’s election campaign.
But the Hunter Biden laptop—and the cries of “Russian disinformation” that followed—raise a timely question: Given the Bidens’ Ukraine-related activities, what additional information does Moscow have on the first family?
Hunter Biden’s problems with substance abuse, prostitutes, and money would have made the vice president’s son an ideal target for foreign intelligence services. Worse, Joe Biden seems to have eagerly promoted his son’s shakedown efforts, even boasting publicly about using his office to interfere in Ukraine’s political and judicial systems, in ways that directly benefited his son’s employer. There is surely no shortage of oligarchs, Ukrainian and Russian, who are eager to share information about their dealings with the Bidens in order to gain influence with Putin and undo rival billionaires. One can assume that all of that information has made its way by now to Putin’s table.
The likelihood that Russia is sitting on a wealth of compromising Ukraine-related material on Joe Biden and his family may come as a shock to media that pushed the Trump-Russia collusion narrative for four years. But the Biden-Russia kompromat story may be more than a political funhouse mirror. It may explain the president’s curious passivity toward Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline and why, almost as soon as Biden took office, Putin seized the opportunity to move more than 100,000 troops to Ukraine’s border.
What’s more, it may also provide new insight into the Russiagate conspiracy theory that poisoned America’s public sphere and made people lose their collective minds.
Given the amount of genuinely compromising material tying Joe Biden and his son to shady dealings involving Ukraine and Russia, including a $3.5 million payment Hunter received from the widow of the former mayor of Moscow in 2014, it’s worth asking if the 46th president of the United States was the initial target of the Hillary Clinton-funded Russia dossier? In fact, allegations about the Bidens’ activities in Ukraine, sourced in part, it seems, to the Clinton campaign, made their way into The New York Times in 2015, encouraging Biden to dispel second thoughts about reentering the 2016 race.
The Steele dossier has long since been revealed as nothing but utter nonsense, but with the Bidens as a target rather than Trump, it’s at least easier to make sense of its contents, especially the notorious “pee tape.” Trump is a well-known germaphobe; it was always hard to imagine him agreeing to being micturated upon by hookers on a hotel bed in Moscow. Nor would Republican primary voters likely care about ladies of the night soiling a bed that Barack Obama once slept in. But Democrats would think it sacrilegious. And by his own admission, Hunter Biden seems to have spent plenty of nights in hotel rooms with prostitutes. If it seems hard to imagine Donald Trump walking into a hotel in Moscow and asking for the Obama suite, a scenario in which Hunter Biden demanded such lodgings doesn’t take much imagination at all.
With Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s borders, now is a good time to revisit Tablet’s October 2020 report on the Biden-Ukraine scandals: both for what it says about the Biden-Ukraine connection, and for what it says about the systematic distortion and censorship of the public record by tech platforms and media verticals that have themselves become active agents of disinformation, targeting the American public.
Lee Smith is the author of The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President (2020).