Other experts on the Rossiya-1 network nodded and concurred. Trump’s departure has sucked the joy out of pro-Kremlin propagandists, with a host of new problems looming on the horizon for Russia. Instead of jolly boasts about “owning” America’s president, Russian state TV shows are now filled with gloomy experts, and discussions about the impending flood of U.S. sanctions are so tense they leave the pundits on the verge of coming to blows.
During the Trump years, state-media mouthpieces, tightly controlled by Russian President Vladimir Putin, put on a happy face and followed his lead in exclaiming that they wanted Trump to be elected solely because he promised to improve the U.S.-Russian relations. Appearing on domestic talk shows and news programs, experts are now slipping up and admitting that they preferred Trump’s presidency mainly because he was so devastatingly bad for the United States and its allies. After President Joe Biden was elected—despite Russia’s efforts to the contrary—all pretense faded into oblivion.
During his nightly program The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev this Tuesday, prominent state TV host Vladimir Soloviev exclaimed: “Why would America think that we’re interested in changing or improving our relations with them?” He added: “What makes them think we’re interested in a reset?” Soloviev predicted a “harsh and asymmetrical response” to Biden’s first round of sanctions that will include further hostilities in Ukraine, long seen in Moscow as one of the main battlegrounds in Russia’s fight against the collective West.
The Biden administration announced sanctions against seven Russian officials on Tuesday in response to the attack on Navalny, which was ignored by Trump.
Across Russian state-media platforms, hosts and experts concurred that Russia is in a new Cold War with the United States, with far-ranging consequences for Ukraine and other countries neighboring Russia. In February, Putin held a video conference meeting with heads of Russia’s largest media outlets, convened behind closed doors. Prior to the summit, the head of RT, Margarita Simonyan, traveled to east Ukraine and publicly argued that “Mother Russia must take Donbas home.” After the conference, Simonyan quoted Putin as saying to her: “We will never abandon Donbas. Ever.” She also admitted that America was a topic of discussion, but didn’t go into further detail.
Experts and pundits across Russian state media outlets repeatedly asserted that the United States always was and will always remain Russia’s sworn enemy. Appearing on The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, Semyon Bagdasarov, director of the Moscow-based Center for Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies, exclaimed: “A war is being waged against us. Let’s call things for what they are. They are our enemies. They want to destroy us.” Some went even further. During the same show, Dmitry Kulikov, member of Zinoviev Club, instituted by the Kremlin-controlled media giant Russia Today, argued that Americans should be perceived as a whole other class of beings, “the others.” Anyone who aligns with the United States—from Russian dissidents to European allies—will undoubtedly be painted with the same brush.
Russian propaganda operations are expanding, both internationally and domestically, with larger budgets being allotted for state-media outlets like RT and RIA Novosti. Internally, the state media will attempt to unite Russians against the collective West, headed by the United States. Internationally, Russian state media and aligned troll farms will continue their effort to inflame divisions and chip away at NATO alliances.
One of the consequences of President Biden’s election was the renewed commitment to trans-Atlantic unity, an unwelcome side effect for the Kremlin. Skabeeva of Russia’s 60 Minutes bitterly described the coordination of the latest package of the U.S. and European sanctions against Russia for the attempted poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny as an example of “unity that was unheard of under Trump.” Appearing on Russia-1, the deputy dean of world politics at Moscow's State University, Andrey Sidorov held out hope that the trans-Atlantic alliances were damaged to the point of no return. He pointed out: “Trump will forever remain in the minds of U.S. allies as an example of how they could be dealt with by the next administration. They will always remember that.”
Without a hint of irony, Sidorov described the alleged intent of the United States to interfere in Russian elections as “the third phase” of the Cold War. By that token, Russia has been engaged in “the third phase” of the Cold War against the United States for years, having “interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” as outlined in the findings of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Pro-Kremlin experts anticipated the upcoming cybermeasures that would target Russia in retaliation for its malign activities against the U.S. Appearing on 60 Minutes, Alexei Naumov from the Russian International Affairs Council said: “We’ve been laughing at Americans about how easily all of their systems have been hacked, perhaps by our hackers. But Americans have very strong cyber forces, offensive cyber forces. They can represent a threat for us.” Co-host Skabeeva coldly chimed in: “At the same time, we elected their president and they weren’t able to elect ours, so it’s an open question whose cyber forces are stronger.”
Russian cyberwarfare will undoubtedly continue to include influence operations targeting the United States. During his evening broadcast on Wednesday, host Soloviev chuckled: “Will there be an inauguration of Trump on March the 4th?” Other panelists laughed and acknowledged their familiarity with the bizarre conspiracy theory spawned by QAnon. During the broadcast of 60 Minutes, Deputy Speaker of the Russian State Duma Pyotr Tolstoy said: “Here in Russia, we always have an asymmetrical response. It’s a scary one... and it’s classified.”
Threatening retaliation for the latest set of U.S. sanctions, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova urged the United States “not to play with fire.” Co-host Olga Skabeeva asked Zakharova whether Russia was ready to respond to American sanctions. She smirked: “There will be a response. Don’t you even worry about that.”