The view of Trump's impeachment from Russia

By: Rachel Marsden

MOSCOW — Images of U.S President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, have been prominently featured in Russian media lately after Giuliani’s latest trip to Ukraine.

In Moscow, Trump’s impeachment inquiry is viewed as the result of U.S. politicians on both sides of the aisle willingly wading into the mud bath of Ukrainian corruption, only to drown in it. People here see the impeachment drama as vindication, with the U.S. policy of backing Ukraine in order to oppose Russia finally blowing up in America’s face.

Trump had asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to engage directly with his pal Giuliani to dig up dirt on the leading Democratic contender for the 2020 presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden. The implication was that things of value to Ukraine — foreign aid to assist in its border conflict with Russia and a White House meeting with Trump — wouldn’t be forthcoming until an investigation of Biden (whose son sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company) had been announced. This was the genius idea that now threatens Trump’s presidency.

Giuliani has doubled down on his meddling in Ukraine, relying on corrupt Ukrainians to help him make the case that other corrupt Ukrainians were in bed with the Obama White House. Giuliani claims Ukraine was so corrupt that Trump had no choice but to investigate — not through America’s democratic institutions, which have the authority to address alleged corruption between domestic and foreign officials, but through Giuliani personally.

The message being conveyed on Russian TV talk shows, as clips of Giuliani loom large in the background, is that Giuliani has found widespread corruption in Ukraine. Such reports come as surprise to absolutely no one in Russia. What does raise eyebrows here, however, is that someone working with the Ukrainians on behalf of the president of the United States is publicly screaming about it. The reports about Giuliani’s dealings provide an opening for Russian officials to call into question U.S. support of Ukraine.

Foreign aid is obviously an important aspect of U.S. foreign policy. Russia’s TASS news agency last week quoted Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s recollection of conversations with Trump in which the president reportedly lamented that some of the countries receiving U.S. foreign aid have turned out to be “bad allies.” There are two distinctly separate things going on here. First, there’s Trump’s general disdain for foreign aid, which often fuels corruption by governments that receive it. Second, there’s Trump’s exploitation of such corruption when it suits him.

But for Russia, America’s selectivity in either fueling or fighting corruption, as opportunism dictates, is symptomatic of the U.S. government’s willingness to tilt the global economic playing field based on questionable criteria.

For example, another issue dominating the headlines here is one of critical economic importance to Russia. The U.S. Congress has approved a defense appropriations bill (which Trump is expected to sign) sanctioning European companies involved in completing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The pipeline will transport natural gas from Russia to Europe and will ultimately strengthen Russia-Europe ties. However, it also damages Ukraine, since the pipeline would allow Russia to deliver its gas to Europe without having to pay Ukraine $3 billion in annual transit fees.

You’d think the U.S. would be thrilled that the pipeline would weaken the Russian-Ukrainian relationship. Well, it turns out that Nord Stream 2 has become a major economic threat to the U.S., because when Russia can sell its gas directly to Europe, it will undercut U.S. plans to ship natural gas to Europe via Germany’s newly built liquefied natural gas terminals. So, right on cue, here come the national security excuses related to a project on the other side of the globe.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale said during a Senate committee hearing earlier this month that Nord Stream 2’s completion would “create another tool for the Kremlin to use Russia’s energy resources to divide Europe, and undermine and destabilize Ukraine.”

Statements like that are becoming an increasingly tough sell in Europe and obviously irritate Russia. The impression here in Moscow is that much of the global instability emanates from a schizophrenic and hypocritical U.S. foreign policy that’s a reflection of the bipartisan political dysfunction playing out in America.