Fresh allegations of Russian meddling in the upcoming US Presidential election shine a harsh spotlight on the dangerous deadlock between the nuclear-tipped powers. In a reprise of 2016, Moscow is apparently pushing hard for Donald Trump to win the White House. But is a Trump second term really in the Kremlin's best interest? Or would a Joe Biden win actually be the more pragmatic outcome for Russia?
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How Russia's election meddling could backfire on Putin
U.S. President Donald Trump and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin
On the surface, a stable Biden presidency, including a strong, no-nonsense Vice President Kamala Harris, would seem unpalatable to Moscow. Biden is well-acquainted with Russian President Vladimir Putin from before and during his tenure as vice president in the Obama administration. Revelations that Russia interfered in the contentious 2016 US election won't be dismissed by a Biden administration. Nor is Biden likely to ignore Russia's ongoing adversarial behavior toward vital US interests, including valued allies and partners worldwide.
From Moscow's perspective, supporting the chaotic Trump presidency might be a more attractive strategy; a continuation of the status quo, stoking internal American disruption and division. But is this scenario really in Russia's best long-term interest? The Trump presidency is already broken where Russia is concerned. As shown in repeated instances throughout his term, Trump has little credibility when addressing Russian issues.
Russia has already benefitted from the Trump presidency. It's worth acknowledging that Trump has given Moscow an easy pass on a wide range of issues, from the illegal annexation of Crimea to the recent poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Most shocking, however, was Trump publicly denying US intelligence findings of Russian interference in the 2016 election as he stood next to Putin at the Helsinki Summit in 2018.
Why would Russia continue to play a losing hand with little more to gain? The question is whether there could be another road to take, and whether Russia would benefit more in the long run from immediately putting a stop to election meddling, and simply letting the US election process play out without interference.
The integrity of the national election process is a sore subject for Americans all across the political spectrum. If Trump's campaign continues on its current trajectory, he will lose in November. And if Russia's reported interference continues through Election Day, Moscow will further cement its pariah status with a new Biden administration, lawmakers and the core of US voters.
Even if Trump wins and (as in 2016) Russian interference is confirmed, Democrats are favored to take back control of Congress, which will put any positive outcome beyond reach for Moscow. Russia will see a heightening of the tough US policy and actions that it earned, and chafed under, during both the Obama and Trump administrations.
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