Former Vice President Joe Biden’s Super Tuesday victories in 10 out of 14 state primaries caused shock waves not only in the United States, but in Russia.
State media there have been confidently predicting the Democratic Party’s nomination of Bernie Sanders, which would lead, they are sure, to the re-election of their favorite, President Donald J. Trump.
Joe Biden’s win in South Carolina gave those Russian media pause, but his buoyant resurgence on Super Tuesday left the Kremlin’s mouthpieces nearly speechless.
Reporting on the U.S. elections for Russian state TV channel Rossiya 24, Alyona Pivkina made a gesture of surprise and said: “Suddenly, Biden surged ahead.” The revelation was followed by an awkward moment of silence between Pivkina and the seemingly stunned host of the news broadcast.
The pro-Kremlin newspaper Vzglyad complained that Biden “rose from the ashes like a phoenix,” prevailing “in spite of the corruption scandals” that have long been alleged and cultivated by the Russians—and the Republicans—concerning his son, Hunter, and his own activities in Ukraine.
With notable irritation, Vzglyad griped about Joe Biden’s state primary victories in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Alabama, claiming that the pro-Biden votes in rural states were secured by “rednecks, who shoot skunks for fun, bowl, beat their wives and associate the word ‘socialist’ with the communist threat.” The newspaper bitterly surmised that through Biden’s anticipated nomination, the U.S. elites won yet another Cold War against socialism.
“Rednecks, who shoot skunks for fun, bowl, beat their wives and associate the word ‘socialist’ with the communist threat.”
— Pro-Kremlin newspaper Vzglyad on Biden voters in the South
Much like the Russians, Senate Republicans were caught off guard and visibly disappointed by Biden’s resurgence as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham told CNN’s Manu Raju that Biden is “going to be tough” to beat, as opposed to the self-proclaimed socialist Sanders. According to The Hill, an unnamed Republican senator expressed his hope that the primary fight between Sanders and Biden would scar the Democratic Party, dragging into the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this July: “It doesn’t mean the Sanders folks all fall into line. They didn’t last time. He’s pretty out there.”
Russian propagandists echoed that anticipation. Appearing on Rossiya 24, analyst Dmitry Drobnitsky predicted that in the event Sanders does not receive a nomination, street protests and violence will follow: “There will be unrest in Milwaukee… There will be a repeat of the 1968 Democratic Convention [riots] in Chicago.”
Last year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report identified “dozens” of U.S. political rallies organized on social media by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian troll farm whose operatives were indicted for interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The Kremlin’s minions will most certainly amplify any efforts to cause public unrest and disrupt the Democratic convention, while also elevating the standard propaganda theme of “rigged elections.”
Describing Biden’s re-established lead as “unexpected,” Russian state TV network Rossiya 24’s headline predicted that “the kompromat will determine the outcome of the elections.” Vladimir Vasiliev, a senior research fellow at the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: “Don’t forget that Ukraine is hanging around Biden’s neck, along with Burisma Holdings”—the energy company where Hunter Biden had a lucrative seat on the board.
Moscow’s repeated pitch on Russian-language state media for domestic consumption and for the sizable community of Russian speakers in the United States is that Joe Biden is damaged goods and Donald Trump is inevitably going to be re-elected. But the messaging doesn’t stop there. The Kremlin’s English-language media aim to influence Americans on their home turf. RT actively promotes conspiracy theories targeting Biden while lauding Trump’s efforts to “investigate” his leading political opponent. RT predicted that Trump will win a second term, claimed that Biden is “cognitively unraveling” and surmised that “allegations of corruption… are doing real damage to his presidential bid.”
“There will be unrest in Milwaukee… There will be a repeat of the 1968 Democratic Convention [riots] in Chicago.”
— Rossiya 24 analyst Dmitry Drobnitsky
Vladimir Soloviev, who hosts an evening news show on the state TV network Rossiya 1, anticipated that Trump would promptly dredge up kompromat—compromising material—against Biden in order to undermine his candidacy.
Discussing the reasons for Ryaboshapka’s removal, the chairman of Ukraine’s ruling Servant of the People parliamentary faction, David Arakhamia, made no mention of any causes related to the Bidens. But Soloviev insinuated that Ryaboshapka’s incoming replacement would pursue an investigation into Hunter Biden in order to please President Trump.
Russian propagandists and U.S. Senate Republicans seem to be guided by a common belief—or perhaps a goal—that the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections in the United States will be artificially altered by continued pursuit of the proverbial “dirt” against Biden in Ukraine.
Soloviev couldn’t hide his glee discussing the fact that one of the Republican senators who voted not to remove President Trump from office for withholding aid to Ukraine on condition it investigate Biden is now leading an investigation of the former vice president.
Russian politician Sergey Stankevich asked Soloviev: “Have you heard the latest news? Senator Ron Johnson demanded and stepped out with an initiative to go to court in order to obtain a dossier on Hunter Biden.”
Stankevich opined that the outcome of this investigation might determine the outcome of the election. Soloviev readily agreed and added: “Like I said from the very beginning, that’s also why Ryaboshapka is being removed.”
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, needed no special introduction on Russian state television. He was one of the Republican lawmakers who elected to celebrate the Fourth of July in Russia in 2018, where all of the GOP visitors agreed to meet with their Russian counterparts in a secret room. Photos, videos and news coverage of the unusual GOP pilgrimage were featured extensively by Russian state media.
Upon Johnson’s return to the United States, he called the U.S. sanctions against Russia “useless,” which garnered even more attention in the Russian media. In October of 2019, Johnson’s statements about his mistrust for the FBI and the CIA provided priceless propaganda for the Kremlin and were prominently aired on Russian state television.
The record shows Johnson underwent a remarkable transformation with respect to the former vice president’s activities in Ukraine, with Johnson’s views morphing only when Biden became a leading rival to the sitting president.
In 2016, Johnson signed a letter urging Ukraine to make “reforms” in the office of Ukraine’s former prosecutor, Viktor Shokin. The United States and other Western nations publicly urged Ukraine to remove Shokin, who was widely criticized for turning a blind eye to corrupt practices.
But come 2019, casting the facts aside during the impeachment proceedings, Johnson called for a review of whether former VP “improperly used his office” to have Shokin removed, and claimed to have no recollection of the 2016 letter he’d signed.
On Wednesday, Johnson said he will likely release an interim report of his committee’s Biden probe within the next one to two months, openly hoping that voters will take the findings into account. Likewise, Russian political scientist Sergey Mikheyev predicted that Biden’s candidacy would be “drowned” by the Ukraine investigations.