Russia frets over U.S. election uncertainty, but likely relishes it

FAN Editor

Moscow — The Russian government is playing up the still-unknown result of the U.S. presidential election. “Any uncertainty in the most powerful world economy, in one of the largest countries, has and could potentially have negative consequences for global affairs,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday.

Speaking later, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said “obvious shortcomings of the American electoral system are evident,” which she said were “partly due to the archaic nature of the relevant legislation and the lack of regulation in a number of fundamental points.”

U.S. intelligence concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered interference in America’s 2016 presidential election, with a clear preference for President Trump. Again this year, U.S. officials warned that Russia was seeking to influence the American election, and to “denigrate” Mr. Trump’s opponent.

Publicly, however, Russia has been fairly even-handed in its approach to the two candidates, with President Putin saying recently that he would work with whoever wins.

Some Russia watchers aren’t surprised. They say Putin has been disappointed in Mr. Trump for failing to improve the often antagonistic relationship between Moscow and Washington. 

Ex-DNI director on Russia and election securi… 03:23

“Whatever the expectations, these past four years have been the years of American-Russian relations at an all-time low,” Russian political analyst Maria Lipman told CBS News.

Meanwhile, experts in disinformation say Russia’s strategic objectives are much bigger than any one candidate, or any one election. They argue that Moscow’s overarching objective is to undermine public trust in the U.S., including in Americans’ own confidence in their country’s political processes.

Domestic Russian media coverage, both before and after the election, has highlighted potentially chaotic results, the complicated nature of the U.S. electoral system, and the polarization of American politics. Broadcaster Russia Today — labeled by American authorities as an international outlet for Russian propaganda — has at times portrayed the election as circus-like.

“It seems ridiculous that such a great country, the biggest democracy in the world, that their democracy is so weird and their system is so strange that it brings to the top people like these,” said Russia Today’s Editor-In-Chief Margarita Simonyan, who described President Trump as “a little off” and said Biden “sometimes seems to be in dementia.”

She predicted that “chaos and riots” would be “absolutely inevitable” in the aftermath of the election.

“60 Minutes”: RT & Russian meddling 03:04

Maria Lipman says political uncertainty in the U.S. serves Russia’s interest.

“If you have a powerful enemy and the enemy is in a state of crisis and chaos, you can benefit by that,” she told CBS News.

Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said Thursday that Russia would continue “closely monitoring” the vote counting in the U.S., adding: “We hope the available legal mechanisms will be sufficient to determine the future head of state in accordance with the Constitution and, most importantly, to avoid public unrest.”  

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