President Biden threatened action against Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday over an intelligence assessment that claimed the Russian leader ordered an influence campaign to “denigrate” then-candidate Biden during the 2020 election. But the assessment from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence offers no evidence for the claim and does not explain how US intelligence reached such a conclusion.
In an interview with ABC News that aired on Wednesday, President Biden said Putin would “pay a price” for the allegations made in the ODNI assessment. A report from CNN on Tuesday night said sanctions on Russia over the assessment could be announced as early as next week.
The assessment’s main example of Putin’s alleged influence is what it calls “Ukrainian-linked” individuals with alleged ties to Russian intelligence who were “alleging corrupt ties” between Biden, his family, and Ukraine. The report offers no evidence for the claims that these “Ukrainian-linked” individuals are tied to Russian intelligence.
The idea that allegations over Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine are Russian disinformation has given the president cover for what appears to be real corruption. In 2014, President Biden’s son Hunter landed a high-paying job on the board of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings. Hunter got the job at Burisma just a few months after the Obama administration orchestrated a coup in Kyiv and chose who would lead the new government.
There are many reasons people in Ukraine or any “Ukrainian-linked” people would like to investigate Hunter Biden’s business dealings in the country, whether they are anti-corruption advocates or just people concerned with US intervention in the region.
The assessment says Russian officials and state media “frequently” attacked Biden for his role in Ukraine. But this is easily explained by the fact that the regime change in Kyiv had an enormous impact on the region, leading to the Russian annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. The idea that Russian officials and media cover the topic does not suggest any sort of insidious influence campaign.
Ultimately, the assessment does not claim much with respect to Russia, or Iran and China, the other two states mentioned in the report. The assessment reads: “We have no indications that any foreign actor attempted to alter any technical aspect of the voting process in the 2020 elections, including voter registration, casting ballots, vote tabulation, or reporting results.”