Hayward: Biden Repeats ‘Russian Bounties’ Lie, Outrages Eastern Europe in Town Hall

Joe Biden
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Former Vice President Joe Biden received a question about foreign policy during his ABC News town hall on Thursday night. His response included trivializing the historic Middle Eastern peace deals brokered by President Donald Trump and repeating a debunked New York Times article that claimed Trump ignored Russia paying bounties for dead American soldiers.

The questioner, Mark Hoffman, asked if President Trump deserves credit for “peace breaking out all over the world.” He referenced Serbia talking to Kosovo and the Arabs talking to the Israelis, which he called “a modern-day miracle.” He also praised Trump for bringing American troops home.

“A little, but not a whole lot,” Biden replied to the question about giving Trump credit.

“We find ourselves in a position where we’re more isolated in the world than we’ve ever been. Our allies are, our go it alone, our, you know, America first has made America alone,” Biden continued, stumbling through a talking point about Trump’s “America First” platform.

“You have Iran closer to having enough nuclear material to build a bomb. North Korea has more bombs and missiles available to it. We find ourselves where our NATO allies are publicly saying they can’t count on us. We’re in a situation, as well, where in the Far East, we find ourselves in the, in the Western Pacific, where we’re isolated, as well,” he said.

Iran is indeed scrambling to enrich more uranium, although supposedly none of it comes anywhere near weapons-grade quality. This would seem like a damning indictment of the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), negotiated by the administration of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Iran began violating the JCPOA with impunity because it was unhappy with the amount of money generated by commerce after sanctions were lifted, and sharply escalated its violations after President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA and restored sanctions. Even the Europeans whose opinions Biden values so highly have (ineffectually) complained about Iran’s provocations.

Iran is ostensibly still part of the JCPOA along with the other participants, but Tehran ignores its obligations as it sees fit, and there is considerable evidence it was secretly cheating long before it began openly defying the agreement.

As for the Western Pacific, the U.S. is not “isolated” there; it lived up to its full commitment to protecting the freedom of navigation while other powers scaled back their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. The continuing freedom and sovereignty of the region depends on American airpower and naval strength. America’s vital regional allies are promising more cooperation, not less.

“You have Japan and South Korea at odds with one another, China is making moves. So, I, you know, I would say we find ourselves less secure than we’ve been,” Biden said.

Japan’s argument with South Korea has nothing to do with Donald Trump, as the dispute dates back to World War II. Biden offered no strategic understanding of the Pacific region, no thoughts on how he would intervene in the decades-old dispute between Japan and South Korea, and no suggestion for how he would prevent China from “making moves.”

Biden briefly paused to trivialize the Abraham Accords, spending literally half a sentence on the historic outbreak of peace in the Middle East before returning to his litany of complaints.

“I do compliment the president on the deal with Israel recently, but, you know, if you take a look, we’re not very well trusted around the world. When 17 major nations of the world were asked who they trust more, who is a better leader, and the president came in behind both, a national survey, international survey, both behind Putin as well as Xi,” Biden said.

This was a reference to a Pew Research Center opinion survey that has become very important to the Biden campaign, as it was also mentioned by his running mate Kamala Harris during her debate with Vice President Mike Pence. The headline result of the poll was Pew’s finding that opinions of China and its dictatorial leader Xi Jinping have plummeted around the world, but the Biden campaign is obsessed with the low approval rating the international respondents gave to Trump.

Biden proceeded to cite a debunked New York Times story he has touted before as evidence that Trump has some sort of nefarious secret relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin:

And look what Putin is doing. You know, you have Americans, bounties on American military’s heads in Afghanistan. They have more people there now, by the way, than when I left – when we left, in Afghanistan.

And we find ourselves in a situation where he spoke to Putin six times, hasn’t said a word to him. And NATO is in the risk of beginning to crack because they don’t doubt – they doubt our – whether we’re there. You see what’s happened in everything from Belarus to Poland to Hungary, and the rise of totalitarian regimes in the world, and as well, this president embraces all the thugs in the world.

I mean, he’s best friends with the leader of North Korea, sending love letters. He doesn’t take on Putin in any way, and he, he’s just, he’s learned the art of the steal from the art of the deal by Xi and China.

The Defense Department stated it found no corroborating evidence for the story about Russian operatives supposedly paying bounties to the Taliban for killing American soldiers in Afghanistan. Harris also cited the story during her debate with Pence. The media seems curiously unwilling to note that Biden and Harris repeatedly make this claim “without evidence,” even though they are normally very fond of that phrase.

Some of Biden’s comments are difficult to parse, but if he was suggesting the United States currently has more troops in Afghanistan than it did at the end of the Obama administration, that assertion is false. The current deployment is roughly comparable to what it was in 2017, and President Trump recently stated a desire to reduce it by half, an even larger reduction than what the Pentagon was already planning.

Blaming Donald Trump for the rigged election in Belarus and the popular uprising against its tyrant Alexander Lukashenko is quite a stretch for Biden, who did not elaborate on how he would implement regime change operations against a despot in Russia’s backyard who just ordered his opposition arrested and his police to consider shooting protesters. 

Poles and Hungarians responded with outrage to Biden casually smearing them as brutal dictatorships on par with Lukashenko’s regime. Poland has been among the strongest supporters of the Belarusan protest movement and is providing sanctuary for a number of hunted Belarusan opposition leaders and democracy activists. Some of those activists are currently in Polish hospitals recovering from alleged torture by Lukashenko’s security forces.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó said on Friday that Biden’s comments on Hungary “have nothing to do with reality.” 

Hungary has tried to maintain good relations with Belarus and urged the European Union to negotiate an end to the political crisis there, which is ostensibly the kind of foreign policy Joe Biden advocates. Hungarian citizens have demonstrated in support of the Belarusan opposition and its leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Biden’s obsessive focus on Vladimir Putin as the locus of evil in the modern world is very, very different from what he said when running for re-election as vice president in 2012. He and President Barack Obama ruthlessly mocked Republican candidate Mitt Romney for viewing Russia as a major geopolitical threat, much as Biden today mocks Trump for treating Communist China as such a threat.

“He acts like he thinks the Cold War’s still on. I don’t know where he’s been,” Biden said when scoffing at Romney’s concerns about Russia in April 2012. “This is not 1956. It exposes how little the governor [Romney] knows about foreign policy.”

Biden went on to praise Russia for helping the United States get troops to Afghanistan and helping Europe obtain then-scarce supplies of oil. He advised Republicans to “use their brains and check the clock” before treating Vladimir Putin’s Russia as an adversary.

Interestingly, Biden and Obama’s “Cold War mentality” smear of Romney is exactly the language China uses today to dismiss the Trump administration’s efforts to check its malevolent global power. Chinese diplomats and media constantly accuse Trump and his officials of being mired in Cold War paranoia.

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