There is no shortage of local topics that interest the Kremlin—from the poisoning of an inconvenient dissident, to the events in neighboring Belarus and the ongoing battle against the coronavirus. In the thick of it all, America remains front and center of the Russian state media’s steely focus. In Putin’s Russia, U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s rallies, events and press comments are viewed and reported with maniacal obsession.
Russian state media happily poked fun at the Trump campaign’s use of a stock photo of Russian-made fighter jets, but aside from an occasional jab, Moscow’s coverage of the Trump presidency closely resembles that of Fox News. State-controlled media’s slant is a telling indicator of the Kremlin’s leanings. To imagine the relationship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his massive media apparatus, one may reference the coziness between Sean Hannity and Trump—and magnify that intensity tenfold, with directives flowing only from the top down. Obsessed with retaining his dominance and fully realizing the power of propaganda, Putin leaves nothing to chance.
Russian lawmakers, state media experts and pundits on tightly-choreographed TV shows openly reveal that the Kremlin is still rooting for Trump. But Moscow has a growing concern that this time around, their preferred candidate might lose. Appearing on a state TV show The Right To Know, Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of the Kremlin-funded propaganda networks RT and Sputnik, said about Trump’s chances of re-election: “I think Trump will lose, but then I think there will be a major blow-up from the standpoint of accepting or not accepting the outcome of the election. They’ll be battling over that for a long time, who knows how it might end.”
Having openly wished for Trump to drive the United States into civil war, Russian state media figures are now relishing that idea with renewed enthusiasm. They believe it would destabilize America to such an extent as to undermine its very sovereignty, thereby untying the Kremlin’s hands to wreak even more havoc upon the Western world. Appearing on Russia’s state TV show The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, analyst Dmitry Drobnitsky explained his belief that U.S. elections “can be considered America’s internal affairs only up to the point when an actual civil war starts there.” The idea of a coup d'état seems all but inevitable, Drobnitsky argued: “The loser in this election would be an idiot to accept the outcome.”
Russian state media repeatedly echoed Trump, who is doing the Kremlin’s bidding by attacking the legitimacy of the 2020 elections, falsely suggesting that mail-in voting is completely fraudulent, and that Democrats are rigging the process to falsify the outcome. There is no doubt that the Kremlin would align with Trump in case of a contested election, as the groundwork for accusing the Democrats of fraud has been laid in advance.
Russian state media analysts also make no secret as to the Kremlin’s preferred candidate. Writing for the newspaper Kommersant, Dmitry Kosyrev, political columnist for state media outlet RIA Novosti, pondered: “Is Trump ours?” This popular refrain can be interpreted in one of several ways: to signify Russia’s hold over the American president, to express that Trump’s position is in perfect alignment with that of the Kremlin—meaning, “he is on our side”—or to signal Russia’s preference: “He is the one we choose.” Kosyrev concluded that in the anticipated civil war in the United States, “it is better to remain neutral, but if we had to choose, then Trump is certainly ours.”
There is a unanimous consensus among the pro-Kremlin analysts, all of whom uniformly reject the potential presidency of former Vice President Joe Biden. Analyst Mikhail Taratuta told Moskovsky Komsomolets, a Moscow-based daily newspaper, that Trump’s re-election “would open a new window of possibilities” for Russia, as opposed to Biden’s presidency, which would constitute “a serious situation” with “no chance of improved relations.”
Russia’s Federal News Agency (FAN), underwritten by “Putin’s chef” Yevgeny Prigozhin, exclaimed: “Experts predict civil war in the United States following the presidential election.” A political scientist specializing in America, Rafael Ordukhanyan, told FAN that “The USA has become a land of idiots,” and predicted: “There will be civil war.” He added: “We prefer Trump... he has an affinity for our president.” Ordukhanyan recommended that Russia intensify its info-wars against the United States, in order “to showcase America’s impotence on a global stage.”
Broadcaster Vladimir Pozner surmised that the United States is on the verge of a civil war and added that in the past, America was loved, hated, or feared, but now it is merely pitied. He attributed the crisis to the words and actions of President Trump, who “lies with every breath.” RIA Novosti ridiculed the idea of potentially awarding a Nobel prize to the president who is provoking civil war in his own country.
While some Trump administration officials urge the president’s supporters to load up on ammunition and the president personally spreads fears of a potentially rigged election, the Kremlin’s networks follow through with matching rhetoric in multiple languages.
Moscow’s state media outlets at home and abroad anticipate November mayhem in America, with the expectation that Trump and his supporters would eventually gain the upper hand. Russian analysts argue that facing electoral defeat, Trump will use his executive powers to mobilize troops into the streets, while pro-Trump militias will take matters into their own hands. During his eponymous evening show, TV host Vladimir Soloviev described Trump’s followers as “wealthier than BLM [Black Lives Matter],” “much better armed,” “extremely aggressive and very active.” Soloviev argued that facing the prospect of Trump losing the election, his armed supporters would head into battle to secure the White House for the benefit of the incumbent. A long and bloody conflict would inevitably follow, shattering America’s stability and world standing—which would serve Moscow’s interests to a T.
Discussing the upcoming November elections in the United States, Evgeny Popov, the host of state TV show 60 Minutes said: “There are more and more precursors of civil war.” With great irritation, Popov complained that in spite of America’s internal turmoil, U.S. nuclear-capable B-52 strategic bombers are still flying near Russia's borders. Referring to Russia’s anticipation of the impending civil unrest in the United States, State Duma deputy Aleksey Zhuravlyov retorted: “If things blow up like they should over there, there will be less flying.” He concluded with a simple view on events in America that is undoubtedly shared by the Kremlin: “The worse, the better.”