Austin Bay

Often a bribe is more destructive than a bullet.

In Afghanistan the U.S. and NATO could never defeat the endemic corruption that riddled the Afghan government and army. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, U.S. military and diplomatic assessments insistently bemoan the damage corruption does to Ukraine’s economy, civil institutions and war effort.

Military analysts use the buzz phrase “weaponized corruption” to describe 21st century gray-area warfare corruption tactics and techniques employed by Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin and Xi Jinping’s China.

Corruption, however, is a very ancient and effective weapon of war. The Roman historian Sallust tells us in the late second century B.C., Berber rebel Jugurtha used bribery, murder and raids to build a personal power base in Numidia (modern-day Algeria). Jugurtha repeatedly thwarted Roman army efforts to defeat him.

With its legions bogged in a no-win North African sand trap, Roman authorities co-opted Jugurtha’s father-in-law and ally, Bocchus. They bribed Bocchus by promising him territory. The palm-greased in-law sent Jugurtha to Rome in chains.

Bribery, used as a weapon, secured Rome’s strategic goal. Of course, Roman soldiers gave Bocchus a heavily-armed reason to accept Rome’s deal. From Rome’s perspective, the combination of legions and bribery defeated Jugurtha.


Both Russia and China use corruption to further espionage and propaganda campaigns and undermine vulnerable nations.

As I pointed out in a recent column, Communist China has been particularly effective in purchasing favorable media coverage and stymieing criticism. China has co-opted American scientists with grants (disguised bribes) in order to gain access to their research.

Russia targets leaders and institutions everywhere but particularly in three nations it covets: Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The Ukrainian government contends the Russian-backed war in its Donbas region prevents it from effectively pursuing economic and political reform. The war slows reform, but since 2015 many Western creditors disagree argue Ukraine hasn’t treated corruption as the grave security vulnerability it is.

Why? Fair question. U.S. government and media preach reform — but there is increasing evidence that U.S. leaders and institutions don’t practice what they preach.

Earlier this month John Solomon, reporting in “Just The News,” analyzed State Department emails obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request.

One email, written on Nov. 22, 2016, by former U.S. embassy official George Kent, was particularly chilling. It directly contradicted mainstream media reports in 2020 and public testimony by U.S. officials that “insisted Hunter Biden’s lucrative job with the allegedly corrupt Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings … had no impact on U.S. efforts to fight corruption in that country.”


Solomon reported that in 2016 State Department officials in Ukraine told Washington “that Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine ‘undercut’ U.S. efforts to fight corruption in the former Soviet republic.”

Kent included this guidance: “The real issue to my mind was that someone in Washington needed to engage VP Biden quietly and say that his son Hunter’s presence on the Burisma board undercut the anti-corruption message the VP and we were advancing in Ukraine.”

Kent added: “Ukrainians heard one message from us and then saw another set of behavior, with the (Biden) family association with a known corrupt figure whose company was known for not playing by the rules in the oil/gas sector.”

Hunter Biden’s blatant corruption and hypocrisy had and still have real world strategic and national security costs. If defending Ukraine is a U.S. security interest, American participation in corruption undermines our security efforts. Hunter Biden was hindering Ukraine’s warfighting and corruption-fighting effort.

This is not a conspiracy theory. The Kent email is a fact that was hidden from the American people and is still ignored by benighted and politically corrupted media.

To forward Ukrainian anti-corruption efforts and to add spine to U.S. anti-corruption diplomacy globally, Hunter Biden must be penalized. The correct penalty is criminal investigation and public trial.

Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist and author.

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