Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Russia

November 09, 2020
RM Staff

Originally published Aug. 13, 2020. Updated Nov. 9. 2020.

On Nov. 7, after several tense days of vote counting closely watched by the world, U.S. media declared Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, while anticipating legal challenges from incumbent Donald Trump. Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, will not only be the first female U.S. vice president but also the first Black American and first South Asian American to hold that office. These are more firsts in Harris’s illustrative career. In 2017, Harris joined the U.S. Senate as the second Black woman and first South Asian-American senator in U.S. history. As a senator, she has served on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on the Judiciary, among others. Prior to that, she served as the first female attorney general for California. Given her professional experience, Harris does not hesitate to weigh in on key U.S. domestic issues. But where does the first woman of color to be nominated for national office by a major political party stand on the important foreign policy issue of U.S.-Russian relations?

As for Biden—who, when a vice president himself, made headlines by proclaiming the Obama administration’s intention to “press the reset button” in U.S.-Russian relations—have there recently been any significant changes in his own views on Russia? Below is a sampling of Biden’s and Harris’s statements on what U.S. policies they advocate on key Russia-related issues, as well as their views on Russia itself, as expressed since U.S. President Donald Trump’s election in November 2016, not an exhaustive record. The quotes are divided into categories similar to those in Russia Matters’ news and analysis digests. The current president’s views on Russia were published in an earlier compilation. 

 

I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Joe Biden: “When I was vice president, the secretaries of defense and energy certified annually that the stockpile continued to be safe and reliable without the need for nuclear testing. By all accounts that remains true today. And the scientists who lead our national nuclear laboratories have regularly affirmed that we have learned more about the weapons in the two plus decades of the Stockpile Stewardship program—the means by which we assess the reliability of the weapons—than we did during four decades of weapons testing.” (Statement, 05.29.20)
  • Biden: “Yet nuclear weapons—the proliferation of this deadly knowledge to more nations, and the possibility of a terrorist obtaining nuclear materials—remain among our most pressing security challenges.  Even one nuclear bomb can still cause hideous damage.” (Remarks, 01.12.17) 
  • Kamala Harris with Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) writing in response to the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review: “Our review reportedly pays only superficial attention to the substantial threat posed by nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation. These efforts are just as important as deterring existing nuclear weapons states.” (Letter to President Trump, 01.29.18)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Biden: “Two years after Trump's Singapore meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the U.S. and our allies are less safe and Kim's arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles keeps growing. Photo-ops and love letters are no substitute for deterrence and principled diplomacy.” (Twitter, 06.12.20)
  • Biden: “How can the United States persuade North Korea not to test and to give up its nuclear weapons, and how can we persuade Iran not to pursue nuclear weapons, if we set the destructive example of testing nuclear weapons for coercive purposes?” (Statement, 05.29.20)
  • Biden: “I would work with our allies and partners to prevent North Korea's proliferation of nuclear weapons to bad actors; set the right formula of sanctions enforcement and sanctions relief; and make it harder for Kim to continue on his belligerent path, while making credible efforts to offer an alternative vision for a nonnuclear future to Kim and the people of North Korea. … I would be willing to meet with Kim—not to pursue a vanity project like Trump, but as part of an actual strategy that moves the ball forward on denuclearization.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Biden: “With North Korea, I will empower our negotiators and jump-start a sustained, coordinated campaign with our allies and others, including China, to advance our shared objective of a denuclearized North Korea.” (Foreign Affairs, 01.23.20)
  • Biden: “Are we a nation that embraces dictators and tyrants like Putin and Kim Jong Un?” (Newsweek, 05.21.19)
  • Harris with Sens. Sanders and Warren signed a February 2018 letter to Trump, along with 15 other senators, saying he lacks the “legal authority” to carry out a preemptive strike on North Korea. (The Washington Post, 02.05.19)

Iran and its nuclear program:

  • Biden: “One thing is unmistakably clear: Donald Trump’s policy decisions have increased the risk of war in the Middle East. Two years ago today, he withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement—a deal that was verifiably blocking Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Back then, he promised us a better deal. He hasn’t delivered. Instead, Iran has ramped up its nuclear enrichment activity, moving them closer to the capacity to develop a nuclear bomb. And Iran has become even more provocative in the region, increasing the danger for American forces stationed in the Middle East.” (Statement, 05.08.20)
  • Biden: “Tehran must return to strict compliance with the deal. But if they do so, I would rejoin the agreement and use our renewed commitment to diplomacy to work with our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Biden: “[President Trump’s] reckless actions have produced a deep crisis in transatlantic relations and pushed China and Russia closer to Iran. As a result, the United States, rather than Iran, has been isolated. Predictably, Iran has restarted its nuclear program and become more aggressive, moving the region closer to another disastrous war. In short, Trump’s decisions have left us much worse off.”  (Council on Foreign Relations, 08.01.19)
  • Biden: “Today’s announcement that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal is a profound mistake. It will isolate the United States from nearly every major world power. It will weaken our credibility and global leadership. It will allow Iran to garner international sympathy while doing nothing to reduce its harmful activities across the Middle East.” (Facebook, 05.08.18)
  • Harris: “Iran poses a real threat to the United States based on its nuclear capabilities, and the negotiation of the JCPOA ... was a smart way to put a cap on that in terms of escalating the threat. … If this president is thinking about putting us in a position where we are in a war with Iran, the consequences will be absolutely unacceptable and tragic in terms of the young men and women who are American soldiers sent and deployed into something that was completely avoidable.” (MSNBC, 09.16.19)
  • Harris: “Today’s decision to violate the Iran nuclear deal jeopardizes our national security and isolates us from our closest allies. This nuclear deal is not perfect, but it is certainly the best existing tool we have to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and avoid a disastrous military conflict in the Middle East.” (Statement, 05.08.18)

New Cold War/competition among great powers:

  • Biden [on whether or not he agrees with the Trump administration’s decision to shift foreign policy focus from the Middle East to ‘revisionist’ superpowers Russia and China]: “Yes, but Russia and China pose different types of threats, and there are a number of other important priorities, including climate change, nuclear proliferation, ensuring that the global economy works for the American middle class, and contending with the challenges posed by emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)

NATO-Russia relations:

  • Biden: “Our allies have made clear they want us to remain in the [Open Skies] Treaty, and to work together to address compliance issues with Russia. Without us, the treaty could crumble. Withdrawal will exacerbate growing tensions between the West and Russia, and increase the risks of miscalculation and conflict. Instead of tearing up treaties that make us and our allies more secure, President Trump should take common sense steps to keep Americans safe. He should remain in the Open Skies Treaty and work with allies to confront and resolve problems regarding Russia’s compliance.” (Statement, 05.22.20)
  • Biden: “NATO isn't an extortion racket where you pay up or you don't get protection. It's an alliance of nations with shared values and interests.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Biden: “As president, I will do more than just restore our historic partnerships; I will lead the effort to reimagine them for the world we face today. The Kremlin fears a strong NATO, the most effective political-military alliance in modern history. To counter Russian aggression, we must keep the alliance’s military capabilities sharp while also expanding its capacity to take on nontraditional threats, such as weaponized corruption, disinformation and cybertheft. We must impose real costs on Russia for its violations of international norms and stand with Russian civil society, which has bravely stood up time and again against President Vladimir Putin’s kleptocratic authoritarian system.” (Foreign Affairs, 01.23.20)
  • Biden: “Look what Putin is doing in Europe. Putin is--his whole effort is to break up NATO, to increase his power.” (Democratic debate transcript, 11.21.19)
  • Biden: “Putin's ultimate goal, in my view, is the dissolution of NATO and the European Union rather than the re-establishment of the Soviet Union. He would rather deal with individual nations he can try to strong-arm than a unified, democratic West." (Speech at Chatham House, 10.10.18, 9:14)
  • Biden: “The Kremlin would like nothing more than for Western leaders to declare NATO obsolete and cut investments in collective defense. Given Russia’s aggression in Georgia and Ukraine, NATO must continue to forward-deploy troops and military capabilities to eastern Europe to deter and, if necessary, defeat a Russian attack against one of the alliance’s member states.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)

Nuclear arms control:

  • Biden: "We may have to work out—for example, I was able to help negotiate a New START agreement with Russia, not because I like Putin. The guy's a thug.” (The Pavlovic Today, 03.15.20)
  • As president, Biden will pursue an extension of the New START Treaty, an anchor of strategic stability between the United States and Russia, and use that as a foundation for new arms control arrangements. (Official Campaign Website)
  • Biden: “On nonproliferation and nuclear security, the United States cannot be a credible voice while it is abandoning the deals it negotiated. From Iran to North Korea, Russia to Saudi Arabia, Trump has made the prospect of nuclear proliferation, a new nuclear arms race and even the use of nuclear weapons more likely. As president, I will renew our commitment to arms control for a new era.” (Foreign Affairs, 01.23.20)
  • Biden: “I will … pursue an extension of the New START treaty, an anchor of strategic stability between the United States and Russia, and use that as a foundation for new arms control arrangements. And I will take other steps to demonstrate our commitment to reducing the role of nuclear weapons. As I said in 2017, I believe that the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be deterring—and, if necessary, retaliating against—a nuclear attack.” (Foreign Affairs, 01.23.20)
  • Biden [recalling his participation in arms control talks in 1979]: “The Soviets wanted a deal with us not because they trusted us, but because they didn’t. It is precisely because we do not trust our adversaries that treaties to constrain the human capacity for destruction are indispensable to the security of the United States of America.” (Prepared Remarks, 01.11.17)
  • Harris with Sanders, Warren, Booker, Klobuchar and Gillibrand to Trump: “Your administration’s efforts to double down on new, unnecessary nuclear weapons while scrapping mutually beneficial treaties risks the United States sliding into another arms race with Russia and erodes U.S. nonproliferation efforts around the world. … A collapse of the INF Treaty and failure to renew New START would lead to the absence of verifiable limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces for the first time since the early 1970s. … Abandoning the Treaty would free Russia to expand its capacity to directly threaten the entire U.S. homeland.” (Letter to President Trump, 12.12.18)
  • Harris with Sanders, Warren, Booker and Gillibrand writing in response to the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review: “Your purported plans to develop new, more usable low-yield nuclear weapons and reintroduce Cold War-era weapons systems are unnecessary to maintain deterrence and are destabilizing. Further, your reported decision to expand the conditions under which the United States might use its nuclear weapons, including to respond to a broadened range of non-nuclear attacks, is equally disturbing.” (Letter to President Trump, 01.29.18)

Counterterrorism:

  • Biden: “The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that a Russia military intelligence unit … has been offering bounties to extremist groups in Afghanistan to kill U.S. troops. There is no bottom to the depth of Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s depravity.” (NBC, 06.27.20)
  • Biden: “As I have long argued, we should bring the vast majority of our troops home from the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East and narrowly define our mission as defeating al Qaeda and the Islamic State (or ISIS). We should also end our support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.” (Foreign Affairs, 01.23.20)
  • Harris [on Russian bounties for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan]: “Is the intelligence in doubt? I would say during my three plus years of being on the Senate intelligence committee and therefore being in receipt of classified information about threats to our national security ...  I have come to highly respect the intelligence community for their professionalism, the detail and precision with which they work … It is well known and understood that part of the responsibility of the president of the United States is to concern himself or herself with the well-being of our service members … It would be wonderful to have a president who actually cares about those men and women and expresses some level of concern about their wellbeing but we don’t see that with Donald Trump in any meaningful way.” (The Washington Post, 07.02.20)

Conflict in Syria:

  • Biden: “What is happening in Iraq is going to—I mean, excuse me, in Afghanistan, as well as all the way over to Syria, we have ISIS that's going to come here. They are going to, in fact, damage the United States of America. That's why we got involved in the first place and not ceded the whole area to Assad and to the Russians.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)
  • Harris: “What has happened in Syria is yet again Donald Trump selling folks out. And in this case, he sold out the Kurds, who, yes, fought with us and thousands died in our fight against ISIS. And let's be clear. What Donald Trump has done, because of that phone call with Erdogan, is basically giving 10,000 ISIS fighters a ‘get out of jail free’ card. And you know who the winner is in this? There are four: Russia, Iran, Assad and ISIS.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.16.19)
  • Harris: “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad viciously attacked innocent civilians, including scores of children, who suffocated to death from chemical weapons. This attack reinforces the clear fact that President Assad is not only a ruthless dictator brutalizing his own people—he is a war criminal the international community cannot ignore. President Trump must consult with Congress to address the administration's lack of clear objectives in Syria and articulate a detailed strategy and path forward in partnership with our allies.” (Statement, 04.06.17)

Cyber security:

  • Biden: “Deterring malicious cyber activities directed against the United States is an important component of a comprehensive cyber strategy. However, engaging with adversaries in cyberspace can have unintended consequences outside of the cyber domain. As such, I would ensure that the strategy of ‘persistent engagement’ undergoes appropriate review.” (New York Times, 02.06.20)
  • Biden: “While foreign funding of campaigns is prohibited by federal statute, the body that enforces campaign finance laws—the Federal Election Commission (FEC)—lacks both teeth and resources. Sophisticated adversaries like Russia and China know how to bypass the ban on foreign funding by exploiting loopholes in the system and using layers of proxies to mask their activities, making it difficult for the FEC, the FBI and the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to follow the money.” (Politico, 11.27.18)
  • Harris: “[W]e must act urgently to bolster our country’s defenses like our election infrastructure and cybersecurity, a bipartisan issue that we have been working on in a bipartisan way.” (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 08.01.18)

Elections interference:

  • Biden: “I made it clear and I asked everyone else to take the pledge. I made it clear that any country, no matter who it is, that interferes in American elections will pay a price. They will pay a price. And it’s been overwhelmingly clear this election—I won’t even get into the last one—this election, that Russia has been involved, China’s been involved to some degree and now we learn that Iran is involved. They will pay a price if I’m elected. They’re interfering with American sovereignty. That’s what’s going on right now. They’re interfering with American sovereignty.” (Presidential debate, 10.22.20)
  • Biden: “I am putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice. If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government. I will direct the U.S. Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered, or attempted to interfere, with U.S. elections. I will direct my administration to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators. These costs could include financial-sector sanctions, asset freezes, cyber responses and the exposure of corruption. A range of other actions could also be taken, depending on the nature of the attack. I will direct our response at a time and in a manner of our choosing.” (Statement, 07.20.20)
  • Biden: “The fact of the matter is, you have Russia influencing and trying to break up NATO. What does the president do? He says, ‘I believe Vladimir Putin. I believe Vladimir Putin. I don't believe our intelligence community.’” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)
  • Biden: “Foreign election interference is not only a serious threat to our democratic institutions, I believe it's a threat to our national security." (Munich Security Conference/RFE/RL, 02.16.19)
  • Biden: “Russia … has taken similar steps to sway political campaigns in a wide range of European countries, including for referendums in the Netherlands (on Ukraine’s integration with Europe), Italy (on governance reforms), and Spain (on Catalonia’s secession). … Further down the road, the U.S. midterm elections in 2018 and the presidential election in 2020 will present fresh opportunities for Russian meddling.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18) 
  • Biden: "With many countries in Europe slated to hold elections this year, we should expect further attempts by Russia to meddle in the democratic process. It will occur again, I promise you. And again the purpose is clear: to collapse the liberal international order." (Speech, 01.18.17)
  • Harris: “Let’s take for example, Russia. So, I serve on the intelligence committee of the United States Senate. America’s Intelligence Community told us Russia interfered in the election of the president of the United States in 2016 and his plan in 2020. Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, said the same, but Donald Trump, the commander in chief of the United States of America, prefers to take the word of Vladimir Putin over the word of the American Intelligence Community. You look at our friends at NATO, he has walked away from agreements.” (Vice presidential debate, 10.07.20)
  • Harris: “I serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee. We have published detailed reports about exactly what we believe happened. And I do believe that there will be foreign interference in the 2020 election, and that Russia will be at the front of the line.” (The Washington Post, 09.06.20)
  • Harris: "When they influenced our elections, they diminished in some ways the integrity of our election system and therefore their goal was accomplished … and they did it through technology. … Until we can get legislation passed, I would urge that social media companies institute [requiring disclosures] as their policy … 2020 is not going to be immune and [there will be] attacks, misinformation campaigns, distortions of reality and truth to turn the American people off from this election." (Remarks at Lesbians Who Tech Pride Summit, 06.21.20)
  • Harris: "On this election issue, this long standing adversary decided that they wanted to attack us where we are strong, and one of the almost intangible strengths of America is we can hold ourselves out as a democracy, as flawed though we may be, it gives us the authority to walk in rooms and actually talk about human rights, talk about civil rights, talk about concepts of freedom. … [T]hey decide to attack the strongest pillar of democracy which is freedom and open elections. So let's get Americans going at each other, what's going to get heat? And they tried out a bunch of different things and you know what caught heat? The issue of race. So Russia exposed America's Achilles heel." (NBC, 08.11.19)
  • Harris: “We need to … upgrade the elections infrastructure, knowing that Russia needs to be held accountable for the fact that they interfered in the election of the president of the United States and will attempt to do it again.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)
  • Harris: “Russia was able to influence our election because they figured out that racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and transphobia are America’s Achilles heel. These issues aren’t only civil rights — they’re also a matter of national security. We have to deal with that.” (Twitter, 02.05.19)
  • Harris: “I think we're all clear that Russia attacked our country during the 2016 election and that they are continuing to attack us today. Russia not only attacked one of our most sacred democratic values, which is a free and fair election, but also, I believe, our very American identity. … [T]hey manipulated us and they are an adversary and they provoked us and they tried to turn us against each other.” (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 08.01.18)

Energy exports:

  • Biden: “The Russian economy is utterly dependent on hydrocarbon exports, so its health is tied to the price of oil and gas; as those prices have plummeted in recent years, the state-owned gas giant Gazprom’s market capitalization has shrunk, from about $368 billion in 2008 to around $52 billion today.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)
  • Biden: “The manipulation of energy markets is another important tool that Russia uses for coercion and influence peddling. … In addition to using energy to coerce its neighbors, the Kremlin is adept at using energy deals to curry influence with European political and business leaders.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • Biden: “The scope of Russian corrupt influence is exceptionally wide, particularly since Russian oligarchs who made vast sums of money over the last several decades have parked much of this wealth in the West, including in luxury real estate markets in London, Miami, and New York. These billions of dollars of investments have been used in many cases to secure access to Western political and business elites. They also serve as a ready source of financing for the Kremlin’s influence operations abroad.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • Biden: “I don’t understand why this President is unwilling to take on Putin when he’s actually paying bounties to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, when he’s engaged in activities that are trying to destabilize all of NATO. I don’t know why he doesn’t do it, but it’s worth asking the question. Why isn’t that being done? Any country that interferes with us will, in fact, pay a price, because they’re affecting our sovereignty.” (Presidential debate, 10.22.20)
  • Biden: “You know, is it any wonder that if you look at the international polling that's been done, that the Chinese leader is rated above American—the American president or that Vladimir Putin congratulated him saying, stand fast and, in fact, it was a mistake to impeach him.” (December democratic debate transcript, 12.20.19)
  • Biden: “I found out [from the impeachment trials] that Vladimir Putin doesn't want me to be president.” (Democratic debate transcript, 11.21.19)
  • Biden: “Russia harbors an erroneous but stubborn—perhaps even obsessive—belief that Washington is actively pursuing regime change in Russia. There is no truth to that idea; the United States has never sought to remove Putin.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)
  • Biden: “Even while defending U.S. interests and safeguarding liberal democracy elsewhere, Washington must keep the channels of communication open with Moscow. At the height of the Cold War, American and Soviet leaders recognized that, whatever their differences, they could not afford a miscalculation that might lead to war. They had to keep talking. The same is true today: as two nuclear superpowers with military assets deployed in close proximity in many different parts of the globe, the United States and Russia have a mutual obligation to maintain strategic stability.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)

 

II. Russia’s relations with other countries

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • Biden: “Putin wants to tell himself, and anyone else he can dupe into believing him, that the liberal idea is ‘obsolete.’ But he does so because he is afraid of its power. No army on earth can match the way the electric idea of liberty passes freely from person to person, jumps borders, transcends languages and cultures and supercharges communities of ordinary citizens into activists and organizers and change agents.” (Foreign Affairs, 01.23.20)
  • Biden: “There is ample evidence of dark money penetrating other democracies, and no reason to believe we are immune from this risk. In 2004, for example, Lithuania’s president was impeached after the media disclosed that a Russian oligarch who contributed to his campaign later received Lithuanian citizenship. Just this past January, in Montenegro, a local politician was charged with laundering Russian funds to support a pro-Russian political party.” (Politico, 11.27.18)
  • Biden: “Today, the Russian government is brazenly assaulting the foundations of Western democracy around the world. Under President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin has launched a coordinated attack across many domains—military, political, economic, informational—using a variety of overt and covert means. … By attacking the West, the Kremlin shifts attention away from corruption and economic malaise at home, activates nationalist passions to stifle internal dissent, and keeps Western democracies on the defensive and preoccupied with internal divisions.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)

China:

  • Biden: “On every relevant metric since Trump took office, Beijing’s position is stronger and America’s is weaker. The United States needs a president who has a record of standing up to Beijing and getting results. … I’ll rally our allies to set the rules of the road and push back on Beijing’s aggressive and predatory behavior.” (Statement, 08.05.20)
  • Biden: “The Russians are still engaged in trying to delegitimize our electoral process. Fact. … China and others are engaged as well in activities designed for us to lose confidence in the outcome.” (Speech at fundraiser, 07.17.20)

Ukraine:

  • Biden: “[Trump] held up aid to make sure that--while at the same time innocent people in the Donbas are getting killed by Russian soldiers.” (Democratic debate transcript, 11.21.19)
  • Biden: “I would make Ukraine a U.S. foreign policy priority. On the military side, I would provide more U.S. security assistance—including weapons—to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself. I would also expand the successful training mission for the Ukrainian Armed Forces that was initiated by the Obama-Biden administration. Economically, I would work to increase Western direct investment and support for Ukraine’s energy independence from Russia, particularly if the Nordstream II pipeline is built in the coming year, because this project would severely jeopardize Ukraine’s access to Russian gas. I would also ensure that all U.S. assistance to Ukraine is strictly conditioned on anti-corruption reforms, including the appointment of genuinely independent anti-corruption prosecutors and courts. Finally, I would support a much stronger diplomatic role for the United States, alongside France and Germany, in the negotiations with Russia. For diplomacy to work, however, we need stronger leverage over Moscow, and that means working more closely with our European partners and allies to ensure that Russia pays a heavier price for its ongoing war in Ukraine. Our strategic goal will be to support the evolution of a democratic, unified, sovereign Ukraine and to force the Kremlin to pay a price for its unrelenting attacks on the international order.” (Council on Foreign Relations, 08.01.19)
  • Biden: “My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government in rooting out corruption in Ukraine. And that's what we should be focusing on… I never discussed a single thing with my son about anything having do with Ukraine.” (Democratic debate transcript, 10.15.19)
  • Biden: “Maintaining the sanctions that the United States and the EU levied on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine has been important not only in pressuring Moscow to resolve the conflict in the near term but also as a signal to the Kremlin that the costs of such behavior will eventually outweigh any perceived benefits.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Biden: “After suffering systematic repression for the past 26 years under the authoritarian regime of President Alexander Lukashenko, the people of Belarus are demanding their voices be heard. After a presidential election marred by electoral fraud, citizens peacefully protesting to demand an accurate vote count are now being met with riot police using stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets. The Lukashenko regime has cut internet access, arrested protesters and independent journalists and tried to muzzle foreign observers. These are not the actions of a political leader confident that he has won a fairly conducted election.” (Statement, 08.10.20)
  • Biden: “Democratic transformation in Russia’s neighborhood would serve as a powerful counterexample to Moscow’s kleptocratic and authoritarian rule and would delegitimize its authority over the long run. So Russia waged wars against Georgia in 2008 and against Ukraine in 2014 in order to undermine governments determined to pursue further integration with NATO and the EU.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)

Belarus:

  • Biden: “No leader who tortures his own people can ever claim legitimacy. That is why the international community should significantly expand its sanctions on Lukashenko’s henchmen and freeze the offshore accounts where they keep their stolen wealth. As President, I will also work with our European partners and allies to lay out a plan of economic support for a truly sovereign, democratic Belarus. Until then, I will continue to join Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and the people of Belarus in calling for the peaceful transfer of power, the release of all political prisoners, and free and fair elections so the Belarusian people are finally able to exercise the democratic rights for which they have sacrificed so much.” (Official Campaign Website, 10.27.20)

War in Karabakh:

  • Biden: “The Trump Administration must tell Azerbaijan that it will not tolerate its efforts to impose a military solution to this conflict. It must make clear to Armenia that regions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be occupied indefinitely and that credible negotiations on a lasting resolution of the conflict must commence immediately once a ceasefire is concluded. Finally, it must stop coddling Ankara and tell both Turkey and Iran to stay out of this conflict. Turkey’s provision of arms to Azerbaijan and bellicose rhetoric encouraging a military solution are irresponsible. A diplomatic resolution will not be easy to achieve, but the Trump Administration has an obligation to try. It should do so urgently before more lives are lost and the conflict expands.” (Official Campaign Website, 10.13.20)

 

III. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

  • Biden: “The Russian regime that emerged from the ashes of the Soviet collapse consolidated immense authority and privilege in the hands of a small cabal of former intelligence officials and oligarchs. They appear strong from the outside, but their power remains brittle at the core—a fact that Putin and the top members of his regime understand better than anyone. Without a chokehold on civil society, the adoring applause and sky-high approval ratings they generally enjoy could quickly descend into a storm of boos and whistles, as Putin has discovered on more than one occasion.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)
  • Biden: “Russian elections have become choreographed performances that are neither free nor fair.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)
  • Biden: “In Russia’s crony capitalist system, success and survival in business depend on the protection of powerful patrons who can shelter a businessperson or a company from raids by bigger competitors or overzealous tax officials. Kremlin authorities and Russian intelligence officials sit at the top of this pyramid, receiving bribes and payoffs in exchange for such protection. But the state itself also benefits from this arrangement, which gives the Kremlin enormous leverage over wealthy Russians who do business in the West and over Western companies that do business in Russia.” (Foreign Policy, 01.02.18)
  • Biden: “Look at the state of Russia now—they’re in enormous decline. … You know, they have a second-rate military power, they have significant advantages geographically where they’re engaged, they have a nuclear arsenal that can blow up the whole world, but in terms of their efficacy, their capacity—it’s diminutive compared to ours.” (Talk at Council on Foreign Relations, 01.23.18, 00:01)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • To be updated.

Photos by Gage Skidmore