Before U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down for a virtual summit on Tuesday morning, Russian state media broadcast its own predictions about the goals of the meeting—and the outcome of the talks.
The latest Russian media tirades have made one point very clear: that gone are the days when Putin’s Russia sought to be treated as an equal with the West. Today, the Kremlin strives to dictate its terms to the world’s leading superpower, using military blackmail to make a point.
The U.S. recently revealed its intelligence assessments that Russia could be planning to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022. This data has been shared with EU and NATO allies, bringing them up-to-date on Moscow’s ongoing military scheme. On Sunday’s state TV show Vesti Nedeli, notorious propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov scoffed at Biden’s statement about not recognizing Russia’s “red lines” when it comes to Ukraine, and predicted that over the course of the summit, Putin will snap Biden “back to reality.”
Kiselyov claimed that by signing the U.S.-Russia Presidential Joint Statement on Strategic Stability in June of this year, Biden essentially acknowledged that he “does not want the United States to be reduced to radioactive ash.” The statement read, in part: “Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
“Here it is: the red line for Biden, set by Putin,” Kiselyov exclaimed. He declared that Biden’s cooperation revealed “America’s fears” and the U.S.’s recognition of Russia’s nuclear “trump card.”
On the state TV show Sunday Evening with Vladimir Soloviev this weekend, the host and his panelists did their best to lower expectations for the meeting.
“This will be a difficult and strained summit,” Soloviev predicted. Andrey Sidorov, deputy dean of world politics at Moscow State University, concurred. “They [Biden and Putin] won’t be able to reach any agreements,” Sidorov said. “All of this is leading to the disintegration of Europe… the [U.S.] won’t be able to expand their military forces to Cold War levels, because they have to contain China.” He added: “Ukraine will be the main topic of conversation on December 7, and the main source of contention, because we can’t agree on anything.”
Sidorov went on to argue that nothing good can come out of the summit, since the United States and Russia don’t recognize each other’s red lines. Soloviev followed up: “What then, war?” Sidorov replied: “We’re already waging it. It’s ongoing.” He went on: “We should have taken all of Ukraine back in 2014. If there was no Ukraine, there would be no problem.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov contributed his own gloomy outlook in the run-up to the summit. On Monday, he told reporters that it was important not to anticipate any breakthroughs and cautioned the public against developing any “emotional” expectations. Peskov added that Putin isn’t planning to provide any public statements at the conclusion of his exchange with the U.S. president.
The attitude of belligerence and hostility permeated state media’s hot takes on the meeting. The head of the State Duma Committee on Defense, Andrei Kartapolov, mocked Biden’s dismissal of Putin’s red lines: “Let him try to cross them... The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation remain in a state of military readiness and are ready to carry out any orders of our commander-in-chief. Makes no difference to us how many of their [U.S.] advisers are there.” He compared the situation with Ukraine to Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008 and cautioned: “Don’t play with fire. Don’t mess with us.”
Appearing on the state TV show 60 Minutes on Monday, Igor Korotchenko, member of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Public Council and editor-in-chief of the National Defense magazine, nervously addressed the possibility that new U.S. sanctions against Russia might include disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT international payment system. Korotchenko threatened: “Disconnection of Russia from SWIFT, if that happens, I believe should be considered as a declaration of war against us—and acted upon accordingly. À la guerre comme à la guerre.”
Notorious nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in the State Duma, was invited to participate in last Thursday’s broadcast of 60 Minutes. Known for his deliberately provocative statements, Zhirinovsky delivered another outrageous diatribe. “The smell of war is in the air,” he asserted, warning the West: “Stop yapping in the direction of Russia.” Zhirinovsky predicted: “We will meet the new year 2022 with a smile on our face, while NATO, Ukraine and others will be trembling in anticipation of war. If Ukrainians start it, we will destroy them.”
Host Olga Skabeeva expressed her hope that the escalating tensions wouldn’t ultimately lead to nuclear war, but quickly reiterated Putin’s earlier assertion that if that were to happen, the Russians “will go to heaven, as martyrs,” while the other side will simply die. Zhirinovsky retorted: “That’s exactly what is going to happen.” Grimacing, Skabeeva replied: “I hope not. I would like to live a while longer.”