In the early days of Russia’s war on Ukraine, President Joe Biden boldly declared he was ready to seize “ill-begotten gains” of the region’s oligarchs.
But in the years before Moscow twice invaded Ukraine, Democrats enriched themselves politically and personally from such oligarchs and businesses in the region while empowering Vladimir Putin with energy and technology deals that still haunt America today.
Our best-selling book “Fallout: Nuclear Bribes, Russian Spies and the Washington Lies that Enriched the Clinton and Biden Dynasties” chronicled how a failed “reset” in U.S.-Russia relations led by Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton relied on an appeasement strategy that ultimately backfired with Russia.
Putin’s spoils were measured in billions of dollars in uranium contracts with U.S. utilities, expanded oil imports and transfers of sensitive technologies.
The American dynasties counted their victories in millions of dollars in donations to the Clinton Foundation, speech fees to Bill Clinton, and lucrative board seats and consulting deals for Hunter Biden.
The appeasement policy began in February 2009. Russia had invaded its neighbor and former client state, Georgia, six months earlier. The lame-duck George W. Bush administration planned to put missile defense structures in Eastern Europe to deter Russian aggression against its neighbors.
But one of the Obama-Biden administration’s first foreign policy maneuvers was to cancel that plan via a “secret letter” to Putin’s placeholder, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Why? U.S. leaders apparently wanted to make deals with Russia, and giant missile silos in Putin’s backyard were a nonstarter for Moscow.
But the canceled missile defense in Eastern Europe was only the beginning in a long line of concessions to Russia that not only emboldened Putin, but advanced Russian military capabilities in ways that are now having deadly consequences for Ukrainian civilians (think hypersonic missiles) while threatening the global economy.
“The last few years have seen a dangerous drift in relations between Russia and the members of our Alliance,” Biden said at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 7, 2009. “It is time — to paraphrase President Obama — it’s time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia.” Biden thus gave voice to what became the “Russia Reset” policy, embodied a month later when Clinton famously pushed a literal red “reset” button with her Russian counterpart.
By 2010, the Obama-Biden-Clinton Russian reset was in full swing. The administration put forth a mutual nuclear disarmament treaty known as “New START,” which, while noble in its declared intentions, risked weakening a compliant partner such as the United States while strengthening a Russia not constrained by the rules.
Another deal that Obama, Biden, and Clinton gave the Russians was called the “123 Agreement,” which allowed state-owned Russian entities like nuclear behemoth Rosatom to sell nuclear materials directly to U.S. utility companies.
This deal continues to pay huge dividends to the Obama Foundation’s top donor, Chicago-based Exelon Corporation. And President Biden has allowed that deal to survive even during the Ukraine war, exempting nuclear fuel sales to U.S. utilities from his recent sanctions targeting Russian energy imports.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-driven 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, and other so-called denuclearization efforts with Libya and North Korea, effectively sent hundreds of thousands of tons of uranium to Russia for enrichment — a huge cash and energy windfall for Putin.
On top of these nuclear handouts, the Obama-Biden-Clinton team gave Russia one of the biggest prizes of all: Uranium One.
Before the Russian takeover, Uranium One was a Canadian company that mined Uranium around the world. It had assets on at least three continents — Eurasia, Africa, and North America. Its assets in Wyoming, Utah, and other states constituted approximately 20% of U.S. uranium capacity and meant that the Obama-Biden Committee of Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) would have to sign off on the deal. They could have said no, but the deal was approved.
Investors in the deal had funneled $145 million into Secretary Clinton’s family foundation. Its approval helped to give Russia a near-monopoly on global uranium production.
After investigative reporter and author Peter Schweizer broke the Uranium One story in 2015, a State Department under secretary, Jose Fernandez, took the blame. Fernandez later landed a “very rewarding” position at the Clinton-connected Center for American Progress. Fernandez has now come back through the revolving door and is a top official in the Biden State Department.
But Clinton’s State Department was not the only Obama-Biden department that extended an advantage to Putin.
Eric Holder’s Department of Justice swept Russian crimes under the rug — not wanting to disrupt the Russian reset. So, the Russian spy ring known as the “Illegals Program,” which had penetrated the highest levels of American politics and finance, just went away. Biden said he did not want to create “a flap.”
Other crimes committed by Putin’s agents were downplayed as well. William Campbell, an American intelligence operative-turned-whistleblower, exposed multiple Russian bribery, kickbacks, and money-laundering conspiracies — all targeting the American nuclear industry.
But Campbell was handcuffed by the Justice Department. His FBI handlers told him it was due to “politics.” When Obama’s DOJ finally got around to indicting Putin’s nuclear agents for bribery, kickbacks, and money laundering, they were given slap-on-the-wrist sentences, announced just before the holidays.
Perhaps the worst of all the Obama-Biden-Clinton giveaways to Putin was known as the Skolkovo initiative. Skolkovo, in suburban Moscow, was the site of Russia’s attempt to create its own Silicon Valley. The Clinton State Department heavily promoted the effort. As it happens, Clinton’s Big Tech donors comprised 17 of the 28 American partners in Skolkovo.
In reality, Skolkovo was a cyber-warfare tech hub and a thinly-veiled cover for corporate espionage and military build-up.
A 2012 U.S. Army report put it this way: “Skolkovo is arguably an overt alternative to clandestine industrial espionage — with the additional distinction that it can achieve such a transfer on a much larger scale and more efficiently … [Skolkovo] has, in fact, been involved in defense-related activities since December 2011, when it approved the first weapons-related project — the development of a hypersonic cruise missile engine.”
So Obama, Biden, and Clinton helped Russia secure innovative technology and weaponry — including hypersonic missiles — that are now, according to the U.S. Air Force, more advanced than America’s similar weapons. The Russian missiles have now allegedly been used in the assault on Ukraine.
By 2013, Putin had taken Americans to the cleaners. He got massive energy supplies that he now uses as a strategic weapon; he got toothless disarmament treaties that history suggests he will not abide by; he compromised American utility companies, getting them hooked on his cheap nuclear fuel supplies; he got his spies freed and sent home to a hero’s welcome in Moscow; he got advanced cyber and military technology; and, not least, he compromised key figures in America’s political class.
What did Americans get in return? Not much. Here’s a simple test: Has your utility bill gotten cheaper since 2009?
But Obama, Clinton, and Biden got a lot. As just one example, before Obama even left office in 2017, he set up the Obama Foundation. One of his very first donors was Exelon Corporation, which had received billions in cheap Russian nuclear fuel sales thanks to the 123 Agreement. Exelon, which was known as “the President’s Utility” pledged a staggering $10 million to Obama’s foundation before he was even out of office.
Biden’s family and its partners got hooked up with the former mayor of Moscow’s family, who sent at least $3.5 million to a company cofounded by Hunter Biden. Thanks to the Hunter Biden laptop, we know that the Russian oligarch behind that $3.5 million may have invested upwards of $200 million in other Biden-linked entities and that Joe Biden personally benefited from his son’s business dealings. And this is all before Biden was named Obama’s point man in Ukraine.
As mentioned, the Clinton Foundation got the $145 million in donations from Uranium One investors. On top of that, the Clintons got $500,000 in the form of a “speaking fee” from a Kremlin-backed bank for Bill Clinton’s 2010 speech in Moscow. They also got Skolkovo-linked donations from now-sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, directly, and indirectly from his varied interests.
With the “reset” in shambles, the Obama-Biden-Clinton players pivoted to Ukraine. In 2014, the U.S. helped overthrow the pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and installed a more Western-friendly regime.
“Biden’s willing … to help to midwife this thing,” said Obama State Department official Victoria Nuland on a leaked call with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. She was talking about installing a pro-European Union, pro-NATO Ukrainian named Arseniy Yatsenyuk as prime minister of Ukraine.
The toppling of the Yanukovych government turned Ukraine into a feeding frenzy for opportunists. Billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded foreign aid began to flow to Ukraine. This gave Biden, Obama’s point man in Ukraine, substantial leverage to extract such concessions as the immediate termination of the Ukrainian prosecutor investigating Burisma, the corrupt Ukrainian gas company that just so happened to have hired Hunter Biden.
The vice president’s son had no experience in oil and gas, and he had no experience in Ukraine; but he clearly held access to the Obama-Biden White House, as the emails on his now infamous laptop make clear.
Many other Democrats (and some Republicans) scored business or benefits in Russia and Ukraine: George Soros, John and Tony Podesta, a key donor to Rep. Adam Schiff, Obama’s White House counsel Greg Craig, Paul Manafort and even the former MI6 agent and Clinton researcher Christopher Steele.
The details of their Eurasian adventures can be found in “Fallout: Nuclear Bribes, Russian Spies, and the Washington Lies that Enriched the Clinton and Biden Dynasties.”
Seamus Bruner is Director of Research at the Government Accountability Institute, which produces investigations at the Drill Down with Peter Schweizer.