Biden faces questions about possible White House run in Ukraine

Written by By Rachel Leibel, CNN

Editor’s Note — This piece was originally published in December 2017. It has been reprinted with permission.

As two former US vice presidents are in Ukraine searching for energy solutions, is Joe Biden ready to embark on another energy adventure of his own?

A potential Biden candidacy has given progressives on both sides of the aisle hope. While some would argue it may help Biden get more support for increased military interventions in response to Russian interference in Ukraine’s presidential election last month, some of Biden’s own advisors would not be on board.

In November, President Trump said he would not send troops to defend Ukraine.

“I have been much tougher on Russia than my predecessor — I have NATO, we are getting along with Russia a lot better,” Trump said, in response to a reporter’s question. “We will be defending NATO.”

The comments were in response to a claim by Ukraine’s acting President, Olexandr Turchynov, that Russian “satellites” were making reconnaissance flights near Ukraine’s borders.

Amid fears that Russia might try to interfere in its independence-seeking presidential election in last month’s snap poll, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Russian authorities would be “the main source of security risks to the security of citizens and the state during and after the election.”

The election itself passed off largely peacefully, but it’s likely that tensions between the new administration and Russia are likely to continue.

Speaking to CNN on Friday, former Vice President Biden and former Vice President Dick Cheney met with Ukrainian officials and leaders of the pro-Western Euromaidan movement as they toured the energy nexus of the Black Sea.

Before the meeting, Biden told reporters that his visit “illustrates the importance of this meeting … and what Ukraine faces, politically and militarily, as it gets on with the hard work of a free and just nation.”

As the Ukrainian government increased its political emphasis on the energy sector, Biden noted that Ukraine must increase its opportunities for domestic production as well as look for ways to open up its offshore gas fields to international companies.

Dick Cheney is seen as the leading proponent of an immediate attack on Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, putting him alongside President Trump.

Cheney for Ukraine?

The meeting came just days after another former veep, Dick Cheney, said it would be worth bombing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces back to the stone age.

Cheney, who worked as George W. Bush’s defense secretary for more than eight years, argued that a “strong international coalition” is needed to “take out chemical weapons sites” and to “crush” Assad.

During a brief telephone interview with a CNN partner network, Cheney said that “an air operation to destroy [Assad’s] capability” could be next.

In November, Biden supported a change of course on Syria, telling CNN that he would be “100%” in favor of U.S. strikes. He was pressed on his comments during his trip to Ukraine, however, and his answer came with a caveat.

“I was talking about the President,” Biden told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “As I say, I’m following his lead.”

Biden was asked how he would respond to a conversation with Putin if the two walked into a room together.

“I’d sit down and say ‘Why are you pushing President Assad into a corner,’ ” he said. “That’s what he is doing. Get him out of there.”

In February 2014, Russia opened fire on the Ukrainian navy in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, leading to a shooting war between Russia and Ukraine. With a separatist uprising in its eastern corner that emerged in April, Ukraine and Russia fought on the Crimea front line for more than two months until a ceasefire agreement brought an end to the fighting.

The vice president said at a press conference that Ukraine is vitally important for Western energy security and was continuing to be discussed at the meeting in Kiev.

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