However, as Biden enters the final days of the campaign with a significant lead, Putin appears to be covering his bets. The Russian president has explicitly refused to amplify Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations about Biden’s son Hunter and his past business dealings in Ukraine, noting that there was “nothing seen criminal.” Putin also pointed to possible common ground with Democrats on social democratic ideology and arms control.
The Russian leader and the former vice president certainly know each other well from past encounters, though the relationship lacks the warmth that Trump says permeates his bond with the Russian leader.
“I’m looking you in the eye, and I don’t think you have a soul,” Biden told Putin at a meeting in 2011, according to a report he gave The New Yorker. “He looked at me, and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand each other.'”
Biden didn’t dwell on the well-known topics of Trump’s weak spot for Putin or the Kremlin meddling – in part because the coronavirus cast such a long shadow on the election and Biden’s team has the feeling that voters are tired of hearing about Russia.
“The most resonant issues for American voters right now are Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, and the dangers of white nationalism; in contrast, Russian electoral interference in 2016 seems more distant for those who are just trying to make ends meet, ”said Michael Carpenter, foreign policy adviser at Biden’s time as vice president who keeps in touch with the countryside.
It’s also possible that “Russiagate” was never a major issue winning the vote: Trump supporters dismissed the accusations as “fake news” and many of his opponents were more focused on other issues.
“Russia is a media and a conversation in Washington. My students don’t care about Russia; they care about Black Lives Matter and MeToo, ”said Nina Khrushcheva, Russian-American professor of international affairs at the New School in New York.
Questions about Biden’s son’s trade relationship in Ukraine have failed to resonate far beyond Trump’s central base, with a recent attempt to reopen Biden’s allegations of alleged wrongdoing in Ukraine largely falling flat.
While Moscow has indeed helped put Trump in the White House, their man has done little to improve bilateral relations over the past four years, despite his personal praise for Putin. But his contempt for Western alliances and self-interest in naked America first is something the Kremlin appreciates – and may explain why officials in Moscow want to see Trump win a second term.“Putin and the people around him might like Trump because he fits their worldview very well. It is a graphic illustration of their logic according to which the world is moving away from liberal values and multilateralism to turn to sovereignty and traditional values, ”said Andrey Kortunov, of Russia’s International Affairs Council.
He said that while Putin really doesn’t understand politicians like Angela Merkel or Emmanuel Macron – and thinks their values rhetoric is hollow and cynical – with Trump, there is a recognition of a cognate spirit, even s ‘there is little affection for him as a person. The two men share “the skepticism of international bodies, the emphasis on sovereignty, a transactional approach to foreign policy and the feeling that discussions about values are nothing but hypocrisy,” Kortunov said.
Putin earlier this month noted Biden’s story of “sharp anti-Russian rhetoric” and contrasted it with Trump’s oft-stated desire to improve ties with Moscow.
“Biden’s approach to Russia would involve supporting a dialogue on arms control, strategic stability, crisis management and risk reduction from a position of strength,” Carpenter said, saying that it was simplistic to see the question of Russian politics as black and white politics. calculation of falcon or dove.
Kortunov said that Russia, unlike Germany, Israel or China, is in the “privileged position” that the outcome of the election is likely to have little effect on bilateral relations. . “But the bad news is, it’s because it’s gonna be bad anyway. Almost everything that could be broken is already broken, ”he said. And there is little prospect of improvement.
Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian sovereign wealth fund, who was allegedly an intermediary for informal contacts with members of Trump’s entourage after his victory in 2016, declined to say if he was in favor of a Trump victory or Biden. But he said it was hard to imagine how things could get any worse anyway. “We are at the lowest point in the history of US-Russian relations, so going even lower would be difficult,” he said.
Russia still denies all accusations of meddling in the 2016 election, whether it is hacking into Democratic Party servers or armies of Internet trolls causing unrest on Facebook and Twitter.
But Fiona Hill, who was director of the National Security Council for European and Russian Affairs for three years under the Trump administration and testified at Trump’s impeachment hearing, said the Russian security official, Nikolai Patrushev, and other senior officials, had all admitted Russian interference in the 2016 vote when she confronted them.
“The Russians told us: ‘You left yourselves open’. They basically admitted it. They said it was on you that it was getting so out of hand.
Officials suggested that the United States had left Russia an open target with its divisive policy – and she felt they were right: “We were providing the raw materials, making our own mistakes,” he said. she declared. Russian interference “would not have resonated without our deep polarization and our structural problems.”
This time around, there are new allegations of Russian attempts to influence the political landscape, such as a right-wing site apparently set up by the Russians and intended to influence American voters. But there’s less attention now, perhaps because with the amount of misinformation coming out of the White House, Russian efforts seem like a drop in the ocean.
“The biggest risk to this election isn’t the Russians, it’s us,” Hill said.