American intelligence officials “assess” that China and Iran hope that Joe Biden defeats President Trump, but that Russia is trying to undermine Joe Biden. These assessments have generated lots of buzz. Democrats have been unhappy that Bill Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, wasn’t more alarmist about alleged Russia’s plans. Now they are unhappy that he has thrown China and Iran into the mix.
I assess that our intelligence community probably can’t reliably discern what foreign powers like China and Russia really think about our presidential election. At most, the intelligence community can only reliably discern what these powers want it to think they think.
Common sense is probably the most reliable guide. It should be obvious that Iran wants Biden to win. Trump pulled the U.S. out of Obama’s nuclear deal, of which Biden was a big fan. Trump then reimposed harsh sanctions. No member of the Iranian regime would want Trump to be reelected.
China is a little less straightforward. Both Biden and Trump have made conciliatory statements about China at times. But actions speak louder than words. As even Chuck Schumer acknowledges, Trump has been tougher on the Red Chinese regime than the Obama-Biden administration was.
As for Russia, Bill Evanina says that its alleged preference for Biden “is consistent with Moscow’s public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration’s policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia.” But the Obama administration’s policies on Ukraine were weak. Obama-Biden didn’t provide the Ukrainians with lethal aid to use against Russia. The Trump administration did.
The Democrats hope to use Evanina’s assessment to promote their longstanding line that Trump is Russia’s friend and tool. But if voters may want to see evidence of this in the policies of the Trump administration, they will be hard pressed to find it.
Moreover, polling suggests that the American public is at least as concerned about China as it is about Russia. That wasn’t true before the Wuhan coronavirus struck our shores, but it’s apparently true now. Thus, publicizing an assessment that Russia favors Trump but China favors Biden doesn’t seem like a path to victory for Democrats.
Or so I assess.