With tens of thousands of votes yet to be counted in the contentious U.S. presidential race, President Donald Trump falsely asserted election fraud and prematurely declared himself to be the winner Tuesday night—even though the final tally may take days to resolve, and even as Democratic candidate Joe Biden appeared to be surging on Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, the American election turmoil brought much joy to Moscow, with Russia seeing clear gains in its ongoing fight against democracy.
State Duma deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov, the grandson of the notorious Vyacheslav Molotov, predicted to the state media outlet Vesti that, regardless of the final outcome, half of American society will see the result as illegitimate. Nikonov falsely claimed that both presidential candidates claimed to have won, although the campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden made no such assertion as the votes are still being counted.
“This outcome of the elections is the worst scenario for America,” Nikonov concluded. He mockingly urged the Russians to buy lots of popcorn, due to the “uncompromising divide in the well-armed American society.” Russian state television started to announce upcoming TV movies by describing them as “the greatest show on earth, not counting U.S. elections.” Appearing on the Russian state media TV show 60 Minutes, Alexei Naumov from the Russian International Affairs Council said about the American presidential elections: “The greatest political thriller of the year is upon us. Watch and enjoy. Nothing like this will ever happen again.”
Russian state media has long predicted civil war and mayhem in post-election America. In the run-up to the presidential elections in the United States, the host of 60 Minutes Evgeny Popov repeatedly asked pundits and experts, “Will there be blood?” Igor Morozov, a member of Russia’s Federation Council, replied, “Yes, there will be blood. There is no way there wouldn’t be.” Talking about the anticipated post-election violence between armed supporters of both candidates, Russian lawmaker Aleksei Zhuravlyov told 60 Minutes, “What’s not to like? It’s excellent, if you ask me… I love it!”
Sergey Mironov, the head of Fair Russia political party and former chairman of Russia’s Federation Council, argued that chaotic elections and the threat of violence in the United States demonstrate that America has lost its moral authority and can no longer claim to be the leader of the free world. Appearing on 60 Minutes, Igor Korotchenko, member of the Defense Ministry's public advisory council, argued that Russia should seize the opportunity to sell more arms to the countries trying to buck America’s global leadership, while the United States is embroiled in an internal political battle.
While the undecided election and the possibility of post-election violence in the U.S. bring joy to the Kremlin, Russia certainly has a dog in this fight. Pro-Kremlin pundits, experts, and lawmakers are openly rooting for Trump’s re-election. Appearing on Russia’s state TV show The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, deputy dean of world politics at Moscow’s State University, Andrey Sidorov explained, “We’re certainly not indifferent as to who wins, because if Trump is re-elected, the same politics of chaos in America will continue. The United States undoubtedly will not be able to consolidate their allies… For us, Biden is the worst scenario.”
Appearing on Russia’s 60 Minutes one day prior to the U.S. elections, lawmaker Leonid Kalashnikov mockingly described the electoral choice hanging in the balance between Trump as “the Russian spy” and Biden as “the Ukrainian spy.” Host Evgeny Popov played along: “We’re for the Russian spy.” Kalashnikov concurred: “When something is good for you, don’t search for something better. Let our guy, Trump, stay. We know and understand him well.” Popov’s co-host and wife Olga Skabeeva noted, “The left and the Blacks are protesting against our candidate Trump.”
Putin’s Russia did its best to help Trump win re-election, by disseminating the alleged sex-tape “kompromat” about Hunter Biden designed to harm Biden’s candidacy. State TV hosts and pundits expressed deep frustration that, unlike in 2016, in 2020 the American media didn’t fall for these disinformation tactics.
Nonetheless, Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud and premature declaration of his own victory spell out a hotly contested electoral process. Russian state media channel Rossiya-1 predicted a “prolonged political crisis” in the United States, which is beneficial for Moscow. Co-host of 60 Minutes Olga Skabeeva explained, “We’re hoping that while they’re dealing with their own problems, they’ll have no time to impose any more Russian sanctions.”
Yulia Makarova, the host of a news show on the state media channel Rossiya-24, echoed the same expectation: “There is hope that after elections, the Congress will focus on internal affairs, and not on sanctions against Russia.” Makarova said that the anticipated economic stimulus will weaken the U.S. dollar and echoed Bloomberg’s prediction that in terms of the strengthened ruble, Russia would be the biggest beneficiary of Trump’s re-election.
State media outlet RIA Novosti noted that a Biden presidency would lead to increased pressure against Russia. Channel Rossiya-24 predicted that Biden’s election would increase the likelihood of new anti-Russian sanctions. On the other hand, the co-host of 60 Minutes, Olga Skabeeva, described Trump as someone who is trying to destroy the American system—which suits the Kremlin just fine. To help Russia’s preferred candidate and discredit democratic elections, Kremlin-controlled state media outlets echoed Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud.
RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan even took to Twitter the day after the vote to spew the same complaints Trump has been making for weeks, if not months.
“Neither free nor fair,” Simonyan proclaimed, capping off a Twitter thread in which she alleged “numerous violations” and “numerous reports of corruption” without providing any specifics. She also alleged “censorship on major media platforms,” apparently in reference to social media flagging many of Trump’s Election Night posts as “misleading” for his claims of a plot to “steal” the vote.
Similar efforts will undoubtedly unfold via Russia’s underground disinformation channels, in anticipation of the final election results that may spell out trouble for Moscow’s favored presidential contender.