Russian state media—a reliable barometer of the mood at the Kremlin—remains fixated on election-related events in America. Affectionately referring to Donald Trump as “our Donald,” “Trumpusha” and “Comrade Trump,” Russian lawmakers, experts and pundits repeatedly have expressed their concerns about the future of Moscow’s all-time favorite U.S. president.
Co-host of Russian state TV news talk show 60 Minutes Olga Skabeeva brought up the possibility that President Trump would end up seeking asylum in Russia to escape any prosecutions in the United States following the conclusion of his sole presidential term. Skabeeva emphasized that this was by no means a joking matter: “It’s all very serious,” she said, as she pondered out loud about the nature of criminal charges Trump might soon be facing.
Experts in the studio enthusiastically discussed the likelihood of Trump being charged with a bevy of offenses from tax evasion to fraud and sexual assault. They concurred that Trump’s presidential pardon would not help him in state cases, unlike the recently advanced constitutional amendment in Russia that secured lifetime immunity from criminal prosecution for the country’s former presidents. Russian President Vladimir Putin can relate to Trump on a very personal level—not only where it comes to a ruthless pursuit of power, but also with respect to the intense fear of accountability if that power was to ever slip away. While Putin’s grip on Russia is feverishly safeguarded, Trump’s fate is far from certain.
The rabidly anti-American military expert and member of the Russian Defense Ministry's Public Council, Igor Korotchenko, spoke out in Trump’s defense with a passion that is drastically different from the combative rhetoric that traditionally accompanied his commentary about any other Western heads of state. Korotchenko angrily—not to mention ludicrously—compared “poor Trump’s” anticipated legal troubles to the Stalinist repressions of 1937. He argued: “Russia can offer political asylum to the persecuted former president of the United States, Donald Trump. But let him not simply arrive to Rostov or elsewhere, but also transfer his capital here and finally build his famous Trump City somewhere in our New Moscow.”
State-controlled RIA Novosti opined that the looming threat of criminal prosecutions is the Democratic Party’s way of “spitting at Trump on his way out.” Staunch Kremlin propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov’s Sunday show Weekly News argued that for Trump, pardoning himself is a matter of survival.
Full-throated support of the Kremlin-controlled state media is at odds with Trump’s repeated mantra of being “tough on Russia.” To the contrary, in the land of Putin, there is a gnawing fear that things will get tough for Russia without Trump at the helm. Putin’s refusal to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden is echoed by Russian lawmakers on state TV shows. They believe that Trump will continue to unleash dirty tricks out of the Pandora’s box of his shameless determination to stay in office even after being voted out.
Notorious politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who previously suggested that Putin should milk Trump like a cow before he is forced to leave office, enumerated actions he hoped Trump would undertake prior to his departure: recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, leave NATO, withdraw U.S. troops from every place they’re stationed worldwide, arrest disloyal U.S. state governors, refuse to recognize the outcome of the elections, force all states to conduct mandatory recounts, and induce Attorney General Bill Barr to pursue any actions that would benefit Trump.
“Trump is your creation,” grimly noted the host of 60 Minutes, Evgeny Popov, referring to Zhirinovsky’s champagne-soaked celebration of Trump’s 2016 election victory in Russia’s parliament. In response, Zhirinovsky argued that the current U.S. president was still capable of pulling off a fast one and staying in the office against all odds: “You don’t know Trump, he has plenty of tricks up his sleeve and can still cause lots of damage to America and the entire world.”
Zhirinovsky’s stance appears to be in perfect alignment with Putin’s deliberate delay in recognizing or congratulating the incoming Biden administration, since doing so might undermine the likelihood of extracting some last-minute favors from President Trump. “There is no need to rush,” Zhirinovsky argued, “the 20th of January isn’t here yet.”
The Kremlin is in no hurry to congratulate Joe Biden with his return to the White House as president. Appearing on Russia’s state TV show The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, the deputy dean of World Politics at Moscow State University, Andrey Sidorov, predicted that the Biden presidency would spell out the consolidation of the entire Western world against Russia. Experts and lawmakers in Russian state media concurred that Moscow should anticipate additional sanctions in the near future.
“Biden is telling us that America is back. What does that mean for us?” asked 60 Minutes host Evgeny Popov, noting Russia’s inability to adequately retaliate against U.S. sanctions. Deputy Speaker of the Russian State Duma (lower chamber of parliament) Pyotr Tolstoy responded with an ominous threat: “We’re going to use their computers to make sure that people like Biden and his entire team will never again imagine that they have the right to world domination. We will unquestionably demonstrate it to them in years to come. Just wait and see.”