With Joe Biden declared America’s newest president-elect, darkness descended over Russian state media this week.
Pro-Kremlin news anchors, pundits and experts have long dreaded former Vice President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020, having described it as “the worst scenario for Russia.” As their nightmare became an inevitable reality, Russian state television shows were permeated with angry faces and raw emotions.
“Nothing will ever be the same... What are we witnessing? What is the world coming to? Not only this country, but the world?” mournfully asked Evgeny Popov, the host of Russian state media show 60 Minutes. Panelists in the studio grimly outlined the bevy of consequences Biden’s presidency may mean for the Kremlin.
Lawmaker Leonid Kalashnikov, who admittedly celebrated Trump’s victory in 2016, said: “Unfortunately, Trump lost.” Pontificating about what Biden’s presidency will mean for Russia, Kalashnikov surmised: “Understandably, I have nothing to be happy about... All of us should be thinking: ‘What is Russia supposed to do now?’ Get ready to be disconnected from SWIFT [international banking payment system]? That Europe will line up along with their sanctions?” He warned fellow Russians about the wave of incoming consequences: “Trump lost, so it’s time to get ready ... They will start fighting against us like they do in the Middle East.”
Dmitry Abzalov, Director of the Center for Strategic Communications, concurred: “All of us are hostages of this situation ... Biden will come and punish everyone who acted against him.”
“This whole time, we’ve been living with an illusion that Trump is ours,” noted political scientist Ilya Graschenkov. Host Evgeny Popov corrected him: “Trump IS ours, but couldn’t lift anti-Russian sanctions because of the legislation signed into law by Democrats.” Visibly irritated by the lack of deliverables from the Trump administration, combined with the surety of additional punitive measures anticipated from the incoming president, Popov exclaimed: “We spit on them both!”
Trump’s presidency netted plenty of benefits for the Kremlin—from the weakening of transatlantic alliances and decline in America’s global standing, to the deepening divide within the United States. But the Kremlin believed that the American president would pay off like a slot machine on a much bigger scale during his second term. Disappointment with Trump’s failure to lift the sanctions, recognize the annexation of Crimea, stop U.S. support for Ukraine and other perks eagerly anticipated by the Kremlin was threaded through the statements made by Russian lawmakers and political figures.
In his interview with radio station Echo Moskvy, politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky—who famously celebrated Trump’s 2016 election by throwing a champagne party in Russia’s parliament—bitterly complained: “Trump didn’t do anything good for us ... In his election campaign, he promised to improve [relations], but in reality he did nothing, he didn’t even come here. All U.S. presidents came to Russia and invited our president to their place in Washington, everyone except him. Donald Trump did not come to Moscow and never invited our president to Washington. Therefore, all we are left with are bad memories.”
Discussing U.S. elections on 60 Minutes, co-host Olga Skabeeva pointed out: “The last time we interfered, but not this time around.” Writer Zakhar Prilepin noted that Trump should have been a better friend to Putin and Skabeeva enthusiastically agreed: “Then we would have saved him. Everything would have been fine.”
While Russian experts and politicians are in mourning over Joe Biden’s presidential victory, they managed to make a small amount of lemonade out of the shriveled lemons of Trump’s waning presidency. Russian state media repeatedly aired Donald Trump’s notoriously undemocratic press conference, wherein he baselessly trashed and undermined his own country’s elections, describing the democratic process as unclean, untrustworthy and mired in fraud.
Russian propagandists amplified and embellished Trump’s rabidly anti-American statements and false claims. Appearing on a radio show Soloviev Live, Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of state-funded propaganda networks, RT and Sputnik, disingenuously argued that the U.S. president’s unsubstantiated claims of election fraud should be taken at face value simply because of his unprecedented access to information no one else is privy to.
Russian state media described the U.S. elections as a “bacchanalia,” worse than contested elections in Africa or Belarus, and falsely accused the states of egregious “machinations and falsifications” designed to unseat Trump. The Kremlin’s mouthpieces baselessly alleged that 11 million illegal immigrants, 1.5 million dead voters and an untold number of dogs—supposedly registered to vote by their owners—unlawfully voted for Biden. There is no evidence to substantiate any of these allegations, which are rivaled only by the U.S. president’s bold-faced lie that he lost the race due to unproven, phantom “election fraud.”
Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, noted in an interview with state news agency TASS on Saturday that prior to these elections, Americans never thought that their electoral system could be rigged. Thanks to the barrage of allegations by U.S. President Donald J. Trump, that is no longer the case. Kortunov noted: “Whoever wins, the American political system has already lost. Voter confidence will have to be restored again, and what Trump is doing now—accusing the Democrats of very large-scale fraud—also undermines trust.”
During Friday’s broadcast of 60 Minutes, co-host Olga Skabeeva claimed that at least half of America is now disappointed in the country’s electoral system. Lawmaker Leonid Kalashnikov summed up the U.S. election debacle: “That’s how you delegitimize a nation.” Discrediting the crown jewel of Western democracy has always been one of Russia’s top priorities—and while he failed to come through on other fronts, Trump delivered a parting gift above and beyond the Kremlin’s wildest dreams.