Media · Russia and Eastern Europe

Russia, Ukraine and NATO and the Rise of Russiagate

It’s a truism in the West that Russia is an aggressor in the world today. Western commentators talk about how Putin ‘desires to rebuild the Soviet empire’ because of the ‘annexation of Crimea’ and such forth. The vilification of the Russian government has reached utterly absurd proportions. It is almost to the point where Putin is portrayed as a Bond villain, stroking his white cat and plotting how best to take down Western governments with his “juvenile clickbait” troll farms. Of course, being the supervillain that he is, Putin can stroke his white cat and play 5D chess at the same time, in power levels unknown to Western leaders from Merkel to May. The vilification of Russia has become so absurd that even Russian terms such as ‘kompromat’ are invoked to make what are ordinary operations of security services in every country (in this case, blackmail) seem sinister.

We can ask ourselves where this vilification of Russia began. That is a long standing question with a long history. Russia has always had an ambiguous relation to the West, dating back to well before the Soviet era. Many intellectuals in the West considered Russia ‘barbaric’, and Russian intellectuals countered by creating non-Western definitions of itself – such as Slavophile Russian nationalism which considered Russia as the follower of true Christianity and thus rejected Western values. Then of course we have the Soviet period, with its attendant vilification of Russia, combined with a minority in the West expressing admiration for the Soviet model. This question is way too complex and long to get into here in any depth. But an important factor in the modern resurgence of anti-Russia sentiment in the West – and this precedes Russiagate – is the situation surrounding Ukraine in 2014.

It’s worth noting that prior to this situation in Ukraine, even given the short war in Georgia in 2008 – the vilification of Russia was not a major topic on the agenda of Western politicians. George W. Bush famously praised Putin, saying he could see into Putin’s soul, and Barack Obama laughed at Mitt Romney’s designation of Russia as the biggest threat in 2012 by stating that ‘the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back’ and ‘the Cold War’s been over for 20 years’.

So it is worth examining this situation in Ukraine for multiple reasons. Firstly, to examine the western claims around the Association Agreement, the EuroMaidan, the change of leadership from Yanukovych to Poroshenko, and the annexation of Crimea. Are these claims factually true or did the West lie about the real situation in Ukraine to advance an agenda? Secondly, an examination of the facts can also help illuminate Russiagate and how this vilification of Russia made a comeback, and also how this ties in with Western claims about ‘fake news’ and media manipulation by the Russian government and outlets like RT and Sputnik.

So the first place to begin is the western narrative around this situation in Ukraine in 2014. What happened in Ukraine according to the West? Firstly, there was a leader in charge who was called Viktor Yanukovych, who was corrupt and unpopular with the Ukrainian people. The EU, in good faith and with benign intentions, was negotiating with Yanukovych a thing called an ‘Association Agreement’. This agreement was designed to improve Ukraine’s economy by creating linkages between the EU and Ukraine. This policy was part of a broader policy called the Eastern Partnership, which was designed to create good relations and economic ties between the 6 countries situated on the border of or near to the EU to the East (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia). Some of these countries were willing to accept an Association Agreement, and some were not. In the case of e.g. Belarus, they rejected the EU’s honest overtures because they did not want to make necessary economic reforms.

Yanukovych negotiated the agreement in this framework, but then refused to sign the agreement. This failure to sign led to outrage on the behalf of much of the Ukrainian people who took to the streets in the EuroMaidan protests in order to get the Association Agreement signed. This was a fully organic movement that represented at least a fair proportion of the Ukrainian people. Any violence that took place was fully or mostly the fault of the Yanukovych government. Eventually Yanukovych realised that his position was untenable, and fled to Russia. A new democratically elected leader was chosen by the Ukrainian people, Petro Poroshenko, who duly carried out the will of the Ukrainian people by signing the Association Agreement with the EU. In response to the overthrow of their puppet leader Yanukovych, Russia annexed Crimea by force, carrying out a sham referendum as a figleaf of legitimacy for this fundamentally unwarranted and unprovoked aggression.

That in essence is the Western claims about the Ukrainian situation in 2014. So lets begin by looking at the facts:

  • Yanukovych was corrupt: Yanukovych was corrupt, but the Ukrainian system is built on cabals of oligarchs since the end of Soviet socialism. There was also much corruption under other Ukrainian leaders such as Kuchma.
  • Yanukovych was unpopular: Ukraine is a country that is divided between east and west – the more Eastern parts of Ukraine are sympathetic to Russia; the more Western parts more sympathetic to the EU. The 2004 election was won by the pro-Western faction (Viktor Yushchenko) in the so called ‘Orange Revolution’. The 2010 election was won with support in the east of the country by Yanukovych. It is difficult for any leader to appeal fully to both sides and these divisions in Ukraine are not created by political leadership. No doubt that there are many people with whom Yanukovych was legitimately unpopular. But he was elected in more or less fair elections in 2010.
  • The EU was negotiating a good faith Economic Agreement with Ukraine: there is more to the association agreement than just economics. Stephen Cohen has been one of the most astute critics of the Western policy towards Russia and one of the few academics that has attempted to rebut Russiagate and point out the dangers of vilifying Russia. Here’s an important quote from him about the agreement:

The EU proposal was a reckless provocation compelling the democratically elected president of a deeply divided country to choose between Russia and the West. So too was the EU’s rejection of Putin’s counter-proposal of a Russian-European-American plan to save Ukraine from financial collapse. On its own, the EU proposal was not economically feasible. Offering little financial assistance, it required the Ukrainian government to enact harsh austerity measures and to sharply curtail is longstanding economic relations with Russia. Nor was the EU proposal entirely benign. It included protocols requiring Ukraine to adhere to Europe’s “military and security” policies, which meant in effect, without mentioning the alliance, NATO.

Stephen F. Cohen, The New Cold War and the Necessity of Patriotic Heresy.
  • Yanukovych’s failure to sign the agreement outraged the Ukrainian people: No doubt some Ukrainians legitimately supported the Association Agreement, and there were some individuals who were inspired to protest by this fact. But the protests also included violent Nazi thugs who were underplayed by Western commentators so that they could support the overthrow of the democratically elected Yanukovych.
  • Russia’s annexation of Crimea was aggression: Russia’s ‘annexation’ of Crimea was a response to Western aggression. Russia needs access to the ports in Crimea for both trade related reasons and geostrategic related reasons. Russia has a fleet in Crimea known as the Black Sea fleet which goes back at least to the Soviet times. After the end of the USSR, this naval base was maintained through agreements between the Ukrainian government and the Russian government. Any attempt to either get Ukraine in NATO, or in NATO through the back door, as we have seen the Association Agreement do, threatens this fleet and threatens to bring ships right next to Russian naval space. Russia needs access to Crimea because of trade as well, as Russian northern ports are not always accessible and so Russia needs access to a warm-water port such as Crimea. The West has constantly sought to expand NATO towards Russia’s borders – and any attempt to place Ukraine in NATO or NATO-by-proxy is 100% unacceptable to Moscow.

Now at least in Europe, here is where many of the claims of Russian fake news and media manipulation started to grow. An outlet called EU vs. DISINFORMATION began in 2015 in order to combat ‘pro-Kremlin’ fake news. This is before Russiagate took off – that was in 2016 – but it fits in much better with the timeline of the EU wanting to manage narratives around the issue of Ukraine and Crimea. I have posted this image before, but it is relevant here as evidence for the high level of focus put on the issue of Ukraine by EU vs DISINFORMATION:

EU vs DISINFORMATION: highly concerned about narrative management when it comes to Ukraine.

This beginning of vilification of Russian media outlets thus foreshadows Russiagate. One interesting quote – which I found from a book given out at a meeting set up by the Foreign Policy Centre – is this one which suggests that the West should do more to prevent the Kremlin undermining western democracy by media manipulation in the context of an article about the Ukraine crisis:

To counter Russian propaganda, EU member states need to modernise and effectively implement their regulations on the responsibility of the media so that democratic freedom of speech is not used to cover manipulation.

Dmytro Shulga, “Ukraine: Fighting for the European Future” in “Trouble in the Neighbourhood: The Future of the EU’s Eastern Partnership” Foreign Policy Centre 2015, p. 49.

Russiagate thus exaggerated trends that were already present in Europe due to the Ukraine crisis. The idea that RT and Sputnik are fake news came to prominence not with Russiagate but with the Ukraine crisis and rejoining of Crimea with Russia, about which the West had been spreading false information and narratives to promote its agenda of removing Ukraine from the Russia orbit.

[Addition: this article was originally written before the impeachment inquiry was opened against Donald Trump due to inappropriate comments while on the phone with current Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. It is interesting though to observe the continuation of the narrative against Russia through Ukraine as began in 2014].

Russia and Eastern Europe · US

Ukraine and Trump

I saw this article on RT, called [translated from the Russian] “‘To Economise on Ukraine Spending’: Why Trump may Refuse war help to Kiev”. After seeing this article on RT, I thought it may be of value to discuss the issue of funding and arming Ukraine and how this policy has developed over the years since the 2014 coup in Ukraine.

There is not space here to discuss in depth the coup in Ukraine, though it will be of value to give a brief summary of the events that occurred in 2014. The European Union proposed a policy called the Association Agreement, which was aimed at 6 countries that are near the EU in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia). This Association Agreement was portrayed by the EU and the media as a benign economic agreement that would strengthen economic ties between the EU countries and Ukraine. [In reality, it contained aspects that would ensure that Ukraine had to comply with NATO, a surefire way to aggravate Russia]. This agreement was negotiated by the then government of Viktor Yanukovych and the EU. However, in the end, Yanukovych didn’t sign the deal.

This decision not to sign the deal meant that there were protests that took place in response, the so called ‘Euromaidan’. The alleged aim of these protests was to get the government to reverse course and to sign the deal. However, many involved in the protest were far right thugs. Washington supported and backed the protests in order to oust Yanukovych from power and replace him with a leader who was more friendly to the West and more willing to sign the deal and follow a NATO line on Russia. Yanukovych was replaced in a coup by Petro Poroshenko, a pro-Western leader:

As it turns out, the evidence that Poroshenko is in the pocket of the U.S. State Department has been available all this time, you just had to know where to find it. In a classified diplomatic cable from 2006 released by, U.S. officials refer to Poroshenko as “Our Ukraine [political party] (OU) insider Petro Poroshenko”.

Popular Resistance

Poroshenko signed the Association Agreement. The Ukrainian people have quite strong views on Poroshenko’s performance in office:

In March last year, Foreign Affairs reported that Poroshenko had an approval rating as low as 17 percent. In September last year, the Japan Times reported that his approval rating had dropped to a single digit. Some reports say it was as low as 2 percent. October last year saw his approval rating grow to its highest in recent times, reaching a stratospheric 14 percent.

Darius Shahtahmasebi, Mint Press News

When Poroshenko stood for re-election in 2019, he was handily defeated by Volodymyr Zelensky.

But to return to the time around the coup. Crimea was rejoined with Russia, and more importantly for the purpose of this post, there was strife within the East of Ukraine, where areas in the Donbass [Donetsk and Luhansk] reacted negatively to the coup. Military action between the regions in the East and Kiev then took place.

The US Government supported the government in Kiev instead of the people in Donetsk and Luhansk. The US government also supported the Ukrainian government against what they termed ‘Russian Aggression’. During the Obama era, a piece of legislation went through Congress called H.R.5859 or the “Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014”. It became law on the 18th December 2014.

A lot of this bill is to do with issues such as sanctions on Russia. But here is the key bit of the bill for our purposes:

(Sec. 6) Authorizes:
the President to provide Ukraine with defense articles, services, and training in order to counter offensive weapons and reestablish its sovereignty and territorial integrity; and
FY2015-FY2017 appropriations.

Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014.

So in other words, this allows the president to decide to sell ‘defensive’ (however that is defined) arms to Ukraine.

However, what did Obama actually do while in office? He did not go as far in aiding the Ukrainian government as this allows for.

[T]he Obama administration never authorized large commercial or government sales, a move widely seen as a de facto decision not to provide lethal weapons to the Ukraine military. 

Josh Rogin, Washington Post

According to The Nation:

President Obama resolutely refused to send “defensive” weapons to Kiev, though he did sign on to the creation of multinational military training base in western Ukraine at Yaroviv. 

James Carden, the Nation

However, we can now look at Trump’s policy towards arming Ukraine.

The Trump administration has approved the largest U.S. commercial sale of lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine since 2014. The move was heavily supported by top Trump national security Cabinet officials and Congress but may complicate President Trump’s stated ambition to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Administration officials confirmed that the State Department this month approved a commercial license authorizing the export of Model M107A1 Sniper Systems, ammunition, and associated parts and accessories to Ukraine, a sale valued at $41.5 million.

Josh Rogin, Washington Post

This authorisation to sell these weapons to Ukraine took place in December 2017.

Trump also approved sending Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine:

The sale, reported by the Wall Street Journal, would put a uniquely effective weapon into play in the conflict. The Javelin, developed by Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin and first put in service in 1996, is a shoulder-fired missile designed to track targets by infrared. But rather than hitting a tank in the front or sides, where its armor is thickest, the Javelin projectile flies along a long arc to hit a tank’s roof, where the armor on most models is thinnest.
The Javelin is both more powerful, more expensive, and more tightly controlled than other anti-tank weapons, such as the older BGM-71 TOW system. 

David Morris

This brings us to the present day and the raising of this issue by current politicians in Washington, and the RT article cited at the top of the page.

According to RT:

In the US Congress there are calls to unlock $250 million, which would be used for war help to Ukraine. This request has come from two members of the House of Representatives – Democrat Eliot Engel and Republican Michael McCaul.

Alexei Zakvasin and Elizabeta Komarova, RT Russian, Translation by the author

Politico has also covered this story:

POLITICO reported last week that the Trump administration is slow-walking the funding. While an administration official said the pause was to ensure the money is spent in line with U.S. interests, the move has drawn rebukes from both parties in Congress who have called the funding crucial as the Ukrainian military combats Russian-backed separatists.

Connor O’Brien, Politico

However, it then turned out that on the 12th September, the government of Donald Trump released this aid to Ukraine, amounting to $250 million. Of course, Trump was pressurised by all sides to release this aid to Ukraine. This is another clear example that shows the support of both parties for the war machine and the military industrial complex.

Russia and Eastern Europe · US

What’s Wrong with Sanders’ Foreign Policy? Bernie Sanders supported the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia

In general, I’ve always felt that Sanders is a candidate with a weak record on the issue of foreign policy, and I have believed so ever since he came to prominence in the 2016 primary race. My fear with Sanders has always been that he would be – at best, assuming (wrongly) that the capitalist state and corporations would not block his agenda at every turn – a sort of American Attlee: some degree of positive reforms domestically [Attlee introduced the NHS and modern welfare state into the UK] combined with a continuance of the broad swathes of American empire abroad. I believe this not just because of his relative ignoring of foreign policy in his campaigning, but also because of certain votes that Sanders has cast in the past, in particular, his vote for the bombing of Yugoslavia.

Author Michael Parenti talks about Bernie Sanders and that he broke with Sanders over the issue of war in Yugoslavia.

There was some coverage of this vote of Sanders’ in independent media when he ran for president the first time around, but I think that we need a reminder of the events that went on in 1999 to assess Sanders’ vote.

Firstly, we need to assess the background to the situation that led to the bombing of Yugoslavia. It’s impossible to go into a full history here, but in short – Yugoslavia was a multiethnic socialist / market socialist state where there was socialisation of the economy and worker controlled enterprises. The state ran into difficulties in the 1980s and in the 1990s began to break up into small states. A group called the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) also wanted to break away from what remained of Yugoslavia after the early 1990s conflict. There was conflict between them and the Yugoslav authorities.

The first thing to examine is the basics of the Western narrative that was being spun around the events in Yugoslavia. The Western narrative was one of NATO humanitarian intervention to present a genocide against the Kosovar Albanians by the Yugoslav authorities. This article published in the foreign policy journal Survival, which appears to be an undergraduate level introduction to the bombing, includes this text from the UK and Foreign Commonwealth Office stating the criteria when they consider “humanitarian intervention” to be necessary and justified.

taken from Adam Roberts, NATO’s ‘Humanitarian War’ over Kosovo, Survival, Vol 41, No. 3, Autumn 1999, p. 106.

Here is a video statement of how Bernie Sanders justified his vote for bombing Yugoslavia, which was made at the time. Sanders plays into the narrative promoted by the west, that there was mass genocide in Kosovo and that we have to do something about it. He quotes someone who compares the situation in Kosovo to the Holocaust. Here is an excerpt, with a video embed for those who want the full statement and context:

For those friends of mine whose sincerity is not in question, who say they detest war, they are as appalled as I am about the bombing of civilian areas in Belgrade. [If you want to stop the war] then I ask you to think about what happens to the 800,000 men, women and children who have been pushed out of their homes. What do you do with a war criminal who […] organised rape as a weapon of war […] what do you do to a butcher who has lined up people and shot them. […] What do you think happens next?

Bernie Sanders in a video statement embedded below

There was much criticism of Bernie Sanders at the time for supporting the bombing of Yugoslavia. As Michael Parenti said in the video above, he broke with Bernie Sanders over the issue of the Yugoslavia bombing and did not send him any contributions after that vote was taken. He was far from the only critic.

One of Bernie Sanders’ staff members resigned over his support for the bombing of Yugoslavia:

I believe that every individual must have some limit to what acts of military violence they are willing to participate in or support, regardless of either personal welfare or claims that it will lead to a greater good. Any individual who does not possess such a limit is vulnerable to committing or condoning abhorrent acts without even stopping to think about it.

Jeremy Brecher in his resignation letter to Bernie Sanders.

His reasons for resigning over this action were that the NATO bombing was not humanitarian in intent and that it had virtually no chance of improving the situation for the Kosovar Albanians.

A number of people also occupied Bernie Sanders’ office in response. There was a statement that was released at the time which discusses the reason for the occupation of Sanders’ office, though it does not say too much about the war in Yugoslavia in itself. It claims that:

Bernie became an imperialist to get elected in 1990. 

Will Miller, “Why We Are Occupying Bernie Sanders’ Burlington office”

They also state that Sanders’ staff member had them arrested:

At 6:30 PM, one half hour after closing time, Philip Fiermonte of Bernie’s staff had 15 of us arrested for trespass. Sanders refused a conference call with those in the occupation, which was carried out nonviolently and with no disruption to his staff. 

Will Miller, “Why We Are Occupying Bernie Sanders’ Burlington office”

To assess Sanders’ support for the bombing, we must assess whether the fundamental claim – the claim that the bombing is being carried out to benefit the Kosovar Albanians and prevent genocidal violence by the Serbian side – can be true. Firstly, there has been much questioning among anti-war and leftist sources about the actual facts on the ground regarding genocide of the Kosovo Albanians. This is what Noam Chomsky argued regarding the situation in Kosovo:

What was the genocide in Kosovo? We know from the Western documentation what it was. In the year prior to the bombing, according to Western sources about two thousand people were killed, the killings were distributed, a lot of them were coming in fact according to British government, which was the most hawkish element of the Alliance, up until January 1999 a majority of killings came from the KLA guerillas who were coming in as they said, you know, to try to incite a harsh Serbian response, which they got, in order to appeal to Western humanitarians to bomb.

Noam Chomsky

There was some questioning of the NATO narrative at the time in the House of Commons:

In the interests of balance, will the Deputy Prime Minister acknowledge that one of the reasons for the tremendous suffering and bloodshed in Kosovo in the recent past has been the armed separatist rebellion in the country, and that that is a two-sided, not a one-sided, fight?

George Galloway in Parliament, from Hansard

There is also a ton of evidence that the bombing did not have a humanitarian effect:

  • Serbian infrastructure was targeted. This included things such as roads, bridges and industry;
  • Many historical sites were ruined;
  • The Chinese Embassy was bombed;
  • Depleted Uranium was used. Depleted Uranium is a chemical weapon that poisons the country with radioactive materials, which lead to high rates of cancer;
  • Cluster bombs were also used which are extremely dangerous to civilians;
  • There was the destruction of oil refineries and petrochemical plants which is terrible for the environment;
  • A Serb television station was bombed;
  • Many Kosovo Albanians – those who were allegedly the ones being helped by the bombing – had to flee their homes because of the bombs, not because of Serbian violence.
  • Sources for more information: This article in RT. This piece in Monthly Review.

We should look at alternative narratives that look at the facts and explain the reasons for the bombing.

Why the West disliked Yugoslavia during the cold war is obvious, although it tolerated and sometimes helped Yugoslavia because it was a bulwark against Soviet Socialism:

In 1945, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was built around six socialist republics and two autonomous provinces in Serbia. The right to self-determination of all nations was guaranteed. The state provided education, employment, healthcare and housing, and most importantly, ethnic tensions ran at an all time low as nationalism was stamped out in favour of ‘brotherhood and unity’ between nations. 

Shay Lafontaine

As the article explained, the Yugoslavian economy was infiltrated through the use of IMF loans which lead to massive levels of debt in Yugoslavia (a similar thing happened in Poland in the 1970s). But Yugoslavia and Milosevic had refused to become fully integrated into the neoliberal capitalist machine:

The NATO powers (namely the U.S) had facilitated Slobodan Milosevic’s rise to power as president of Serbia in 1989 to further open up the Yugoslav markets, but the Milosevic leadership and the Yugoslav people refused to completely dismantle Yugoslav socialism in Serbia – as late as 1999, as much as 75% of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s (FRY)[25] basic industry remained publicly owned.

Shay Lafontaine

Countries that refuse to go along with the profit making ambitions of US corporations have been punished time and time again – both before the Yugoslavia bombing (for example, Guatemala, Cuba, Iran) and afterwards (for example Iraq, Libya, Syria). Bernie Sanders’ vote for the bombing of Yugoslavia thus exists within this imperialist matrix of supporting corporate power and profit – which is anathema to the stated goals of Sanders as a self-avowed ‘democratic socialist’.

Russia and Eastern Europe · US

Nonsense from Joe Biden on Russiagate and Eastern Europe

On this blog, I will try not to talk about dumb comments from politicians too much because sometimes this gets too much focus as compared with other more substantive issues, especially in the mainstream media 24 hour news cycle. But I couldn’t resist discussing this absolute crock of shit that was said by Joe Biden. I became aware of this clip because of the excellent Jimmy Dore show, who you’re probably all familiar with:

In this clip Dore discusses some of what Joe Biden says, but he does not address in that much detail the claims made by Biden about Eastern Europe and Russian meddling. So I am going to discuss them. Also many people don’t actually know much about the politics of these countries, so a breakdown may be helpful.

Biden’s claims in the video are that Russia is influencing elections in Hungary and Poland. So let’s break this down by providing some information on the parties in both of these countries.

Let’s start with Poland. Polish parties have come and gone for the last 30 odd years, but the two main political parties in Poland now are the Civic Platform (PO) and Law and Justice (PiS). If we look at these two parties, we will see that PO is a neoliberal, pro-EU party; the former head of the party, Donald Tusk, became the president of the European Council in 2014. PiS is a right-wing Catholic party that is more Eurosceptic. So maybe one could say Russia wants to undermine PO because it is pro-EU and promote PIS because it is anti-EU (because according to the Russiagate fanatics, Russia wants to destroy the EU and rigged the Brexit referendum). There’s one major problem with this argument: PiS hates Russia.

PiS is a right wing party, so some might say its ideologically closer to Putin than parties in the West because of its conservative values. But it is also a Polish nationalist party, and Polish nationalists have a long history of hating Russia. In short they hate Russia because of historical events like the Third Partition of Poland which took place in 1795 and the fact that the socialist system after WWII was backed up by the force of Moscow and a large number of Poles disliked that system of government. There are even rumours about the death of Lech Kaczynski, a key leader in PiS with his twin brother, Jaroslaw. Lech Kaczynski was the president of Poland who was killed in a plane crash in Smolensk in 2010 along with 95 other people. Because this incident took place in Russia, and because Lech Kaczynski was anti-Russian, some individuals think that Kaczynski was killed by the Russian government. After PiS got elected in 2015 with a majority, they reexamined the crash and exhumed the bodies:

The move is likely to strain relations with Russia already fragile over the Ukraine crisis. Although PiS has never accused Russia of orchestrating the president’s death, it has said the Kremlin benefited from the crash. PiS officials have also accused Moscow of prolonging its investigation, and withholding evidence, such as the black boxes and the plane’s wreckage. Russia says these cannot be returned until its criminal investigation is concluded.

Quoted from the Guardian

in short, manipulating the elections for one or the other of these parties doesn’t really benefit Russia. Not to mention Biden has presented no evidence. If Russia is trying to manipulate the elections in favour of any other party, it isn’t doing a good job, because those parties do not have a good chance of winning in the 2019 elections.

Now Hungary. There is less to say here. Presumably the Russians are accussed on manipulating elections in favour of the right wing populist Viktor Orban. Presumably because Orban has been critical of the EU, is anti-immigration, and has other values that the West doesn’t like. Viktor Orban won elections far before the Russiagate narrative became popular. His party Fidesz has been winning elections since the 1990s. Fidesz won elections in 1998, 2010, 2014, 2018 and was second in 2002 and 2006. To portray Fidesz’ success as some sort of Russian plot is ridiculous. Presumably, Biden is referring to hypothetical ‘meddling’ in the 2018 election – yet no evidence is presented.

Everyone reading this is probably already aware of the ridiculousness of Russiagate, which has been exposed by many journalists, notably Aaron Mate – whom I would suggest you read if you want more detail on Russiagate. I just wanted to go in it a bit more detail as to why Biden’s specific claim here is prima facie not very plausible.