HAASS: Before I call—I just want to put one other issue on the floor before I get another question or two, which is Ukraine. This administration, unlike the administration you worked in, decided to provide limited defense articles to Ukraine. Do you think that was a wise decision? And more broadly, do you see any scope for any sort of a deal on eastern Ukraine?
BIDEN: The answer is yes, I think it was a wise decision. But then again, I was pushing that for two years before we left, so. And the reason is I think the more you up the ante, the cost to Russia for their aggression—I mean, as you all know, and you know this better than anybody, you know, the one big lie going on about Ukraine back in—and the rest of Russia is that no Russian soldiers are engaged. They’re not dying. No body bags are coming home, et cetera. Because there’s overwhelming opposition on the part of the body politic in Russia for engagement in Ukraine in a military sense.
Do I think they’re—I think the Donbas has potential to be able to be solved, but it takes two things. One of those things is missing now. And that is I’m desperately concerned about the backsliding on the part of Kiev in terms of corruption. They made—I mean, I’ll give you one concrete example. I was—not I, but it just happened to be that was the assignment I got. I got all the good ones. And so I got Ukraine. And I remember going over, convincing our team, our leaders to—convincing that we should be providing for loan guarantees. And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev. And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t.
So they said they had—they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to—or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said—I said, call him. (Laughter.) I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.
Well, there’s still—so they made some genuine substantial changes institutionally and with people. But one of the three institutions, there’s now some backsliding.
HAASS: The courts.
BIDEN: They’re—and the—yes. And they had made that commitment that they wouldn’t do that.