What’s Behind the Troop Buildup on the Ukraine–Russia Border?

January 27, 2022 Updated: February 1, 2022


The Washington foreign policy establishment says the hundreds of thousands of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border threaten NATO and European security. Maybe so, but it’s also possible the Russian forces deployed shortly after Joe Biden took office represent Moscow’s defensive posture.

For all the theories the media and Beltway experts have advanced to explain the perhaps imminent Eastern European conflict, they’ve hidden one big piece of the puzzle—the political faction that Biden leads sees Ukraine as an instrument to advance its narrow partisan interests, foreign and domestic.

In 2013, the Obama administration saw a Ukrainian protest movement as an opportunity to topple a Kyiv government aligned with Moscow. A few short years later, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign used Ukrainian officials and activists to push an intelligence operation targeting her rival, Donald Trump. And in 2019, pro-Ukrainian U.S. policymakers conspired to impeach Trump in order to provide cover for Biden after he had publicly boasted of interfering in Ukraine’s political and judicial system for alleged personal gain.

This is essential context for understanding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands for security guarantees that NATO won’t move eastward—that is, won’t enlist Ukraine. From Moscow’s perspective, no matter how weak Biden appears, he’s head of a reckless and dangerous political bloc. The Democrats used Ukraine to destabilize the U.S. government, and it’s possible they will try again to use it to destabilize Russia.

As I discuss in the latest episode of “Over the Target,” the Democrats’ dangerous actions regarding Ukraine date back nearly a decade. After Putin compelled Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych to reject a 2013 trade deal with the European Union that would have weakened the Russian economy, Ukrainian activists took to the streets of Kyiv in protest.

As violence erupted in the Ukrainian capital, senior Obama administration officials seized the opportunity to remold the government to their own liking. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt were famously caught on tape discussing the prime minister they were planning to install. The tape was allegedly leaked by the Russians to show how the United States was interfering in the internal political dynamics of a foreign country.

In February 2014, Yanukovych fled Kyiv for Moscow, and a handful of top Obama officials visited Ukraine for what seemed to many observers like a victory lap. CIA Director John Brennan’s April visit fueled speculation that America’s clandestine service had engineered the coup.

A week later, then-Vice President Joe Biden arrived, advising the new government to root out corruption. And yet only a month after Biden’s visit, a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, under investigation by international, and later Ukrainian, authorities, appointed his son Hunter to a board seat that paid more than $50,000 a month. It appears that Burisma was buying protection from the U.S. official in charge of Ukraine policy—Hunter Biden’s father.

With the 2016 presidential election in the offing, the Democrats urged their new friends in Ukraine to contribute to Hillary Clinton’s election efforts by supporting her campaign’s allegations that Trump had been compromised by Moscow. A Financial Times article from August 2016 documented the many former and acting Ukrainian officials who claimed the GOP candidate was “pro-Putin.”

In Washington, a Democratic National Committee contractor, Ukrainian American activist Alexandra Chalupa, sought help from the Ukrainian embassy in smearing Trump as a Russian agent. The Ukrainian ambassador to Washington pitched in with an anti-Trump op-ed in The Hill.

At the same time, Clinton campaign contractor Fusion GPS was sourcing reports of Trump–Russia collusion from Ukrainian parliamentarian Serhiy Leshchenko. Indeed, the infamous anti-Trump dossier is fundamentally about Russia and Ukraine.

The salacious bits may be the most notorious parts of the dossier, but the overarching collusion narrative hinges on allegations of a quid pro quo regarding Ukraine. In exchange for Putin’s help winning the 2016 race, the dossier alleges, Trump would remove sanctions that Barack Obama had imposed on Russia for its 2014 incursion into Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

Just weeks before the Obama-Biden administration finished its term in January 2017, Biden told the Department of Justice that Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn should be prosecuted for discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador to Washington. With the help of the press, the Obama-Biden team forced Flynn from the White House, the first move in a more than two-year operation combining the Democratic Party, U.S. spy services, and the media to topple the Trump administration.

When Russiagate did eventually wind down in the summer of 2019, another anti-Trump operation was already in motion. This one, too, turned on Ukraine.

On July 24, Robert Mueller appeared on Capitol Hill to say that his special counsel investigation found no evidence of any quid pro quo or collusion. The next day, Trump spoke on the phone with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and asked for Kyiv’s help in getting to the bottom of Ukraine’s role in Russiagate. He also asked Zelensky for information regarding the Bidens’ activities in Ukraine.

Trump had heard of Joe Biden’s public admission that he made the Ukrainians fire the prosecutor investigating the company paying his son Hunter. The former vice president told a New York audience that he’d demanded a quid pro quo from the Kyiv government. If they didn’t get rid of the prosecutor, he’d withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee. “Well, son of a [expletive],” said Biden, “he got fired.” Trump told Zelensky that Biden’s role “sounds horrible to me.”

A Ukrainian American official working in the White House named Alex Vindman was listening to Trump’s call with Zelensky and relayed its contents to a whistleblower, who was identified by RealClearInvestigations as former Biden aide Eric Ciaramella, a CIA analyst. As a key staffer to the former vice president on Ukraine, Ciaramella must have known as well as anyone that an investigation into the Bidens’ Ukraine-related activities could cause trouble for the Democratic Party’s potential 2020 presidential candidate.

And so, based on Vindman’s account, it was alleged that Trump threatened to withhold lethal defensive aid from Ukraine unless Kyiv helped find dirt on the Bidens. In reality, Biden’s quid pro quo was simply hung on Trump—it was Biden, after all, who’d used U.S. taxpayer money as leverage to allegedly benefit his family. As commander-in-chief, Trump had an obligation to find out whether the Bidens’ activities in Ukraine had compromised U.S. national security.

Nonetheless, the media, Democratic Party operatives, and U.S. officials who’d worked on the Ukraine file, such as Ciaramella and Vindman, White House aide Fiona Hill, and former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, partnered to impeach Trump. They destabilized the American government to protect Joe Biden.

Americans know how the four-year anti-Trump campaign tore at our domestic political fabric. But it was destined to affect our standing abroad as well. After all, the entire world was watching, including the foreign leader the Democrats made the bogeyman in order to destroy a U.S. president—Putin.

The truth of the Biden faction’s Ukraine-related activities has been obscured by the U.S. media or described falsely as “Russian disinformation.” But with a clear view of the facts, it isn’t hard to see the current situation through Russian eyes: America is now governed by corrupt officials who squandered their prestige and forfeited the national interest for the purpose of undermining their own political system. Because Ukraine was their instrument, a Biden administration is dangerous to Russia on Russia’s border.

Thus, there are real-world consequences to the machinations of the Democratic Party over the past decade. For the Ukrainians, it’s a lesson that smaller powers should never allow themselves to be dragged into the internal conflicts of a great power.

For Americans, there’s the long work of sorting through the wreckage caused by a political faction that sees foreign policy as a tool to advance its domestic agenda. And so there’s the very real possibility, however slight, that Biden will drag America into a conflict that he and his party have used over the last 10 years for personal and political gain.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Lee Smith
Lee Smith is a veteran journalist whose work appears in Real Clear Investigations, the Federalist, and Tablet. He is the author of "The Permanent Coup" and "The Plot Against the President."