In the aftermath of the Mueller report and former Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement Thursday he intends to run for president in 2020, several news outlets began reporting on Biden’s desire during his tenure in the Obama administration to develop closer ties to Russia.
The Washington Free Beacon published a piece Thursday morning reminding readers of Biden’s defense of Russia following then-candidate Mitt Romney’s concern over Russia’s apparent moves toward geopolitical domination in 2012.
In 2012, when Romney expressed concern that President Barack Obama was caught on a hot-mic promising more “flexibility” regarding Russia, Biden took it as an opportunity to herald that administration’s “Russia reset” — an approach championed by Hillary Clinton — and marginalize Romney as a doddering conservative still approaching the U.S./Russia relationship from a Cold War perspective.
"Governor Romney's answer I thought was incredibly revealing,” Biden told CBS’ Face The Nation. “He acts like he thinks the Cold War is still on, Russia is still our major adversary. I don't know where he has been.”
Biden then went on to insist Russia was working with the Obama administration n everything from Iran to Afghanistan, and insisted, a month later, that Russia was the reason for new relationships with nations such as China and Turkey.
“All of which are helping advance American security,” the vice president said.
Biden was so enamored of the Obama administration’s new working relationship with Russia that he even floated the idea, as Conservative Review wrote later Thursday, of establishing a “Biden-Putin Commission” that would strengthen ties between the two nations.
In an undated email from Strobe Talbott, former deputy secretary of state under Bill Clinton, to Hillary Clinton, using the subject line “Russia,” the then-Brookings Institution president told Clinton that Biden floated the idea of the commission intended to bolster ties to Russia.
“The VP told me on the margins of the big ceremony at State that he was thinking seriously about a Biden-Putin Commission. I have a thought or two on that subject that I’d like to share with you whenever it’s appropriate.”
In another email, this time from the late Sandy Berger (who served as national security adviser to Bill Clinton), it appeared that Clinton was on board with the idea.
“I think your idea of establishing a Biden-Putin Commission — like Gore-Chemomydrin — to coordinate and drive the US-Russian relationship has a lot of merit,” Berger wrote in an email to Hillary Clinton.
“It elevates the relationship after eight years of neglect which has fueled nationalistic resentment in Moscow and provides a mechanism for achieving trade-offs that can produce a larger bargain,” Berger added.
CR notes Biden had been opposed to former President Ronald Reagan’s strong approach to Russia and instead favored a policy of detente and appeasement with regard to stopping Soviet expansionism.
Democrats’ shift away from a policy supporting the establishment of working relationships with Russia began with the election of Donald Trump, when their rhetoric about the evils of Russia became heightened and they began to downplay their former acceptance of Russia’s geopolitical desires, writes CR.
It will be interesting to see what stance Joe Biden, new candidate for president in 2020, might take on how the U.S. moves forward on its relationship with Russia.
Sarah Lee is a freelance writer and policy wonk living and working in Washington, DC.