WASHINGTON — The Trump administration isn’t doing enough to combat the threat that Russian interference poses to Western democracies, to NATO and especially to the United States, former Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday.
“I don’t know of any system-wide analysis going on in this administration,” Biden told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations. “So, what the hell are we doing? It’s like, ‘Well yeah, they’re doing something out there, but let’s keep moving.’ I really don’t get it.”
Biden, pointing to Russia’s extreme corruption and economic decline, also said the conflict should be framed not as Russia versus the United States, but Russian elites versus the Russian people.
“There is no country in the world that is comfortable with wholesale corruption,” Biden said. “There’s a lot of things we can do, and should be doing, to make it clear that Russia has violated these norms and still be willing – on strategic matters – to talk to them and cooperate with them.”
The former vice president co-authored an article on Foreign Affairs magazine with Michael Carpenter, former deputy assistant secretary of defense, that argued Russian interference has three main goals.
“One is to weaken Western democracies internally,” Carpenter said. “Another is to divide the countries of NATO and the EU internally – to deal individually with those nations as opposed to with a united front – and the third is to undermine the rules-based international order, which from Moscow’s perspective is slanted in favor of the United States.”
Biden said the Obama administration “made the right decision” by not publicly accusing Russia of interfering in the 2016 election before Election Day because it would have seemed too political.
“It was tricky as hell,” Biden said. “Would things have gotten better, or would it further have looked like we were attempting to de-legitimize the electoral process because of our opponent? That was the constant battle. Had we known what we knew three weeks [after the election] later, we may have done something more.”
After leaving office in 2017, Biden has headed the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. He’s refused to rule out a 2020 presidential bid, and in a January 2018 CNN/SSRS poll of potential Democratic matchups Biden had a 17-point lead over Trump. If elected, he’d be 78 on Inauguration Day – the oldest president in U.S. history, surpassing the previous record set by Trump.