In the Thick of It

A blog on the U.S.-Russia relationship

Russian Media, Officials See a Deeply Fractured US Following Election

November 05, 2020
RM Staff

Despite Russians showing less interest in the 2020 U.S. presidential election than they did in the 2016 election, Russian media and government officials are still closely following the race between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden. While pro-Kremlin media and Russian government officials have highlighted the possibility of civil unrest as a result of the close, contested race, others see democracy at work, like opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who called the still undecided vote “a real election.” A couple common threads, however, seem to be a belief that neither Trump nor Biden is necessarily “better” for Russia, and that the only clear outcome of the 2020 election so far is the deeply divided nature of American society. Check out our compilation of takes on the U.S. election from Russian media and officials below.

Who does Russian media predict will win the U.S. election?

  • The final result is still unknown: it is clear, however, that the triumph of Democrat Joe Biden, which was predicted by almost all polls, did not happen, although his victory is quite likely. The plans of the Democrats to gain a majority in the Senate are also under threat. As a result, the only guaranteed outcome of the elections was the civil division, which, having hit the country four years ago, will continue to grow. (Kommersant, 11.05.20)
  • The U.S. presidential vote count after the doors close at polling stations around the country does not make it possible to conclude whether incumbent President Donald Trump or Democratic contender Joe Biden will win. In more than half of U.S. states each presidential hopeful is clinging to real chances for success after the polling stations closed. (TASS, 11.04.20)
  • When Mr. Trump made his statement, it was the dead of night, and in almost all “swing” states, he held a lead. But on the morning of Nov. 4, the situation had changed significantly: Democrats had taken the lead in Nevada and Michigan, and Joe Biden’s victory began to appear more probable. (Kommersant, 11.04.20)
  • Joe Biden will most likely win, but his victory will be nowhere near as overwhelming as public opinion polls predicted. After averaging polling results, Trump’s chances of victory a day before the elections were only one in ten. As of the morning of Nov. 4, there is a quite real (albeit not very large) probability, that Biden will win with an advantage of only two electoral votes; in this case, the decisive vote would come from electors in Nebraska’s second electoral district. (Meduza, 11.04.20)
  • Preliminary election results for the president of the U.S. show the current president (Republican Donald Trump) behind his opponent, Democrat Joseph Biden. (Izvestiya, 11.04.20)
  • Evgeniy Minchenko, president of Minchenko Consulting: “Trump has a serious advantage in the courts. Over his term as President, he appointed a large number of judges, and, most importantly, achieved a Republican majority in the Supreme Court. Thus, I think that even if Biden is named the winner in these three states in question, the result will be contested in court. And Trump has good chances in the courts. So I would currently give Trump a 70/30 chance of winning.” (Vedomosti, 11.04.20)
  • Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs: “Trump did not claim that ‘they want to steal our victory, I will go to court’ for no reason: he feels that he has options. He definitely has a majority in the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court judges, insofar as they have political leanings, are very status quo judges who cannot make any decisions that do not completely correspond with justice.” (Vedomosti, 11.04.20)
  • Election commissions in the U.S. continue to count votes in the recently concluded presidential elections. The result is not yet clear; according to preliminary data, the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, is in the lead. … Both politicians’ headquarters have announced victory for their respective candidate, but it is still too early to tell. (RIA Novosti, 11.04.20)
  • It seems that even today no one will know the preliminary results of the presidential elections: the Nevada electoral commission announced that it would present the results of the voting only in a day and a half; in Pennsylvania last night they realized that they could not quickly count the hundreds of thousands of ballots sent by mail. There are also no exact results in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Alaska. (Komsomol’skaya Pravda, 11.04.20)
  • It is too early to talk about an unambiguous victory for the current president. According to the latest data, neither Trump nor Biden received the required 270 (out of 538) electoral votes to win. ... Shortly before the start of the vote, it became known that according to the polls, Trump had bypassed Biden in several states where the main part of the fight was unfolding. This occurred even despite the fact that in the country as a whole, the Democratic candidate was more than six percent ahead of the current leader before the start of voting. At the same time, experts believed that the gap might not be that big, believing that Trump actually has many "quiet" supporters who do not participate in polls. (, 11.04.20)
  • Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the lower-house State Duma’s International Affairs Committee: "The show called the 'U.S. presidential election' isn’t over, it continues despite Donald Trump declaring his victory and calling for an end to counting the votes. His rival Democrat Joe Biden, however, also expressed his full confidence that he’ll be the next occupant of the White House." (The Moscow Times, 11.04.20)
  • Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the nationalist opposition Liberal Democratic Party of Russia: "Biden might get a lot of votes, but Donald Trump will still emerge the winner because he’s done more for Americans than any president before him… That’s considering that he faced obstruction from the very first day. … People are tired of anarchy throughout the country… America is experiencing the same turmoil—pogroms, looting and violence—that we in Russia lived through 400 years ago. … Every American sees that Biden has certain health issues, it’s not his fault." (The Moscow Times, 11.04.20)
  • Sergei Mironov, A Just Russia opposition party leader: "It’s a split and I sadly think it won’t settle down for quite a while." (The Moscow Times, 11.04.20)
  • Stanislav Natanzon, Rossia 24 state broadcaster news anchor: "Biden is ahead for now, but he has practically no chance." (The Moscow Times, 11.04.20)
  • The incumbent U.S. president [Donald Trump] asserts that the Democrats are trying to steal victory from him. According to him [Trump], he won elections in most key states and should be declared "president-elect" the very next day after the end of the vote. At the same time, most of the "disputed" states, including Pennsylvania, have officially announced that they will not sum up the voting results before Friday [Nov. 6]. In the meantime, the representative of the Democratic party, Joe Biden, is in the lead arithmetically. According to data from states where the law allows counting in advance, as ballots arrive, he has 238 electoral votes in his piggy bank, while Trump has no more than 213. (Rosbalt, 11.04.20)


What will the impact be on Russia, depending on who wins?

  • Experts interviewed by Vedomosti believe that the possibility of victory for the current U.S. president, Republican Donald Trump, in the elections will signify the continuation of the U.S.’s current policy. If, however, after counting up the total votes, Democrat Joe Biden takes the White House, then relations with Moscow could be reimagined. (Vedomosti, 11.04.20)
  • Evgeniy Minchenko, president of Minchenko Consulting: “In the case of a Trump victory, I think that the game of trying to make Russia a U.S. ally in the fight against China will continue.” (Vedomosti, 11.04.20)
  • Andrey Kortunov, director of the Russian International Affairs Council: “I think that here [regarding Trump’s foreign policy in the event of his hypothetical victory] we must keep additional factors in mind, mainly how congressional elections will end up. I think that in the lower house, the Democrats’ position will strengthen. Biden takes the question of arms control more seriously. Biden will potentially also take a somewhat more balanced position in the Middle East. … On the other hand, it’s clear that Biden will support Ukraine more actively and energetically for personal reasons and will peddle human rights. The key questions here is just how much Biden will want to take sanctions policy to a new level.” (Vedomosti, 11.04.20)
  • Vladimir Lukin, former Russian ambassador to the U.S.: “The problem isn’t who is beneficial or not [for Russia], the problem is who will be a partner whom the Russian authorities, the Russian government can work with.” (Dozhd’, 11.04.20)
  • “It’s better for Russia if there is a decisive result, so that the loser will not resort to claims of foreign interference,” Konstantin Kosachev, a Putin ally who chairs a foreign affairs committee, said. “It’s time for America to return to the politics of sanity.” (TIME, 11.04.20)
  • Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the lower-house State Duma’s International Affairs Committee: "As for Russian-American relations, we can’t expect any changes for the better if any of the candidates wins. That’s very unfortunate." (The Moscow Times, 11.04.20)
  • Sergei Mironov, A Just Russia opposition party leader: "In plain Russian, one [candidate] is as bad as the other. Whether Trump or Biden wins, they’re sadly pursuing their narrow national interests… it doesn’t bode well for Russia." (The Moscow Times, 11.04.20)
  • Gennady Zyuganov, Communist Party leader: "Between the two, Biden will be even more aggressive [than Trump toward Russia]." (The Moscow Times, 11.04.20)
  • "There is no 'best candidate' for Russia in the United States," Aleksei Pushkov, a political analyst and frequent critic of the West who is also a member of the upper house of parliament, wrote on Twitter. But Biden, he said, had "displayed anti-Russian reflexes more than once. His administration would be ideologized and obsessed with 'values.' Trump has avoided conflict with Russia. Biden is more dangerous." (RFE/RL, 11.04.20)
  • Nowadays, developments in the U.S. have very little impact on Russia, and the reasons are threefold. First, the old agenda of U.S.-Russia relations has long expired, and there is little cause to expect a new one to take its place. Second, shifts in the global political landscape are changing priorities both in Washington and Moscow, making them view each other as less important, compared to before. … Third, whatever the outcome of the election, domestic political polarization in America will prevent either candidate from carrying out an active and coherent foreign policy. (Fyodor Lukyanov for RT, 11.03.20)
  • Trump is beneficial to Russia in that his foreign policy weakens U.S. global hegemony, undermines unity and accelerates the erosion of U.S.-oriented Western military-political alliances, and deliberately incites conflicts with leading American allies, which undoubtedly reduces the likelihood of unification and effective coordination of Western countries to oppose Russia's foreign and defense policies. (Vladimir Frolov for, 06.11.20)
  • Trump's domestic political strategy of "unmanageable chaos" and deepening political, class, interracial and intercultural polarization not only shifts America's attention to domestic problems and limits its involvement in international affairs, but also neutralizes the world’s attraction to American "soft power," which has always been a powerful resource of American diplomacy. (Vladimir Frolov for, 06.11.20)
  • The main problem for the Kremlin with Biden and the Democrats is the new foreign policy consensus of the leaders of the Democratic Party (in addition to Biden, these are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren): the main geopolitical challenge for the United States is the global confrontation between authoritarianism and democracy, a "free and unfree world." Biden's team is no longer talking about a "liberal world order" requiring American hegemony to maintain the rules, but rather they are talking about a "free world" that the U.S. and its allies must defend against the growing autocracies led by China and Russia. (Vladimir Frolov for, 06.11.20)


What does this protracted process say about the state of democracy in the U.S.?

  • The final result is still unclear; however, it is clear that the triumph of Democrat Joe Biden, which was predicted by almost all polls, did not happen, although his victory is quite probable. The Democrats’ plans to gain a majority in the Senate is also at risk. In total, the only guaranteed outcome of the elections has turned out to be a divide in the nation, which, having shocked the country four years ago, continues to grow. (Kommersant, 11.04.20)
  • The vote, which also contrary to forecasts, took place mostly without significant excesses, showed America the way the world has seen it over the past years—lacking unity, split. (Kommersant, 11.05.20)
  • The problem is that in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, where the acting president continues to lead by a margin of five to 10 percentage points, the final tally will not be calculated immediately—it will take up to three days. … This opens the the door for much speculation, legal battles and even for a revolutionary scenario. Trump himself has claimed a number a times that mail-in voting was put in place just so that victory could be stolen from him and replaced by falsified ballots in favor of Biden. (Vzglyad, 11.04.20)
  • The fate of who will come to power will be determined in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. Trump’s chances look good, but he could still lose—by himself or by the outcome of theoretical falsifications. If he wins, the failures of the Democrats in the Midwest should strengthen the position of the socialist wing; after all, without Bernie Sanders’ form of populism, one cannot become president anymore. (Vzglyad, 11.04.20)
  • A night of vote counting did not provide an answer to the question of who would become the next U.S. president. Due to unprecedently high turnout from early voters, ballot counting is delayed. … Nevertheless, it’s clear that a resounding victory for Biden—which was predicted by all of the polls—will not happen. Furthermore, this means that the deep societal divide in the U.S. has not been overcome, experts believe. (, 11.04.20)
  • This situation shows a very deep divide in American society and points to the fact that America is truly divided in two. This election, no matter who wins in the end, acts as a very painful moral and political defeat for the Democrats, as their entire campaign was built around the idea that society will come together against Trump. This did not happen. (Dmitry Suslov for, 11.04.20)
  • Russian lawmaker Vyacheslav Nikonov: “The spectacle of a sinking superpower is bewitching.” (Twitter, 11.04.20)
  • Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the election proved that American democracy was not a standard to be followed, adding, "Nobody here would approve of such an approach." (The Washington Post, 11.04.20)
  • Russia’s main opposition leader Alexei Navalny suggested the U.S. election was a good example of the democratic process, perhaps alluding to Russian elections he and his supporters say are rigged. “I woke up and went on Twitter to find out who won. Nothing is clear yet,” he said on Twitter. “So, this is a real election.” (TIME, 11.04.20)
  • Gennady Zyuganov, Communist Party leader: "America is more divided than ever… The situation is extremely fraught and the conflict will build up in my opinion, while I’m afraid anarchy will take hold in some cities, as we’ve seen. … I think that Biden, seeing that he is losing, might call for mass unrest. The situation is heating up." (The Moscow Times, 11.04.20)
  • Sergei Mironov, A Just Russia opposition party leader: "We’re seeing something astonishing: looks like the boomerang of so-called color revolutions that the U.S. has launched [in post-Soviet countries] is returning home. I believe that, after the presidential election results are declared, someone might want to use these homespun techniques of color revolutions at home in the U.S.” (The Moscow Times, 11.04.20)
  • Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Russian Federation Council Commission on Information Policy, said Trump's better-than-predicted performance set the scene for chaos. He said Biden had "failed to establish a decisive lead, and now Trump is not going to 'give up the victory.' A sharp conflict is guaranteed." (The Washington Post, 11.04.20)
  • Pro-Kremlin lawmaker Vyacheslav Nikonov, the grandson of Stalin’s foreign minister, advised Russians to stock up on popcorn to watch the show he predicted was about to unfold, saying U.S. society was fatally split. “The result of the elections is the worst outcome for America,” Nikonov, who welcomed Trump’s 2016 win, wrote on Facebook. “Whoever wins the legal battles half of Americans will not consider them the lawful president. Let’s stock up on large quantities of popcorn.” (Reuters, 11.04.20)
  • The head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) says he expects divisions in American society to be aggravated by the presidential election. "The social crisis will deepen regardless of who wins. It is obvious that the losing party will not agree with the results and that will push radicals onto the streets to an even greater degree," Sergei Naryshkin told the RIA Novosti state news agency on Nov. 3. "We expect this process to become a protracted one. First, it will be drawn out purely for technical reasons," Naryshkin said in an interview. This will happen "because a huge number of voters have voted by post, early, and the vote count will take some time," he added. "There will be strong grounds to protest against that whole system. Therefore, this ailment, this illness of American society, of the American state will remain," Naryshkin said. (BBC Monitoring, 11.03.20)
  • Apparently, Trump is counting not even on the final count of votes, but on what will happen after the vote. He is going to go to the Supreme Court to challenge the election results if Biden wins. "This is a massive fraud in our country," Trump said, referring to the mail-order vote. He has repeatedly said that he does not trust this form of expression of will and emphasized that with the help of voting by mail, Democrats want to steal the votes of Americans. However, the Americans themselves, as follows from the results of public opinion polls, completely trust remote voting. (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 11.04.20)
  • We can say that American policy simply stalled for long hours, or maybe days. The intensity of passions is so high, the confrontation between the American "left" and "right" is so tough that not only Trump, but also Biden will not admit defeat and refuse to challenge the voting results. (Rosbalt, 11.04.20)
  • If it comes to determining the election results in the Supreme Court, Trump should have a definite advantage over his rival. Six of the nine Justices are conservative. … However, representatives of the Supreme Court have already made assurances that they will be guided exclusively by the letter of the law. It remains only to trust them. (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 11.04.20)
  • “It is possible that on Nov. 4 one name of the winner will be voiced, in a few days the other name will be announced. The American Postal Workers Union openly backs Biden and opportunities for manipulations during voting by mail are incredibly vast. This is why Americans will have a lot of distrust in the results of the vote,” expert at MGIMO Kirill Koktysh said. This is why the risks are quite high that it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide [the outcome of the election]. At the same time the longer it will take to determine the winner the higher will be the possibility of spontaneous protests and street riots, [pundit] Yuri Rogulev says. “Judging by the intensity of emotions and a serious division of the country along ideological lines the confrontation is becoming uncompromising. And it may result in clashes,” Yuri Rogulev said. (Izvestia, 11.03.20)
  • Russian hopes for a Trump victory were reflected by pro-Kremlin media, which emphasized the idea that U.S. democracy is fraying, facing likely post-election violence or wider internal conflicts. (The Washington Post, 11.03.20)
  • In a conversation with the newspaper senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of the U.S. and Canadian Studies Vladimir Vasilyev suggested that the outcome of the struggle for the recognition of victory Trump is most likely to start after  Nov. 3 will largely depend on whether the Republicans will maintain control over the Senate. “If they maintain control they will tell their leader not to make too much noise ... in order to stay in the White House. But if the Republicans lose the Senate, they will definitely back Trump. Control over the upper chamber of the Congress for two years until the next election will enable the Democrats to do a lot. First of all, they will conduct a reform of the Supreme Court: they will increase the number of liberal judges. Then the Republicans will lose power entirely,” Vasilyev said. (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 11.02.20)

Photo by Phil Roeder shared under a Creative Commons license.