Four years ago, pro-government Russian media did not attempt to stay objective when covering the U.S. presidential race. Nothing has changed in 2020. Though the Kremlin’s ties with the Trump administration, which it supported in 2016, have not proven trouble-free, Moscow still prefers keeping Donald Trump in the White House. Against that backdrop, what kind of election has Russia’s government-dependent, national media shown?
Konstantin Eggert, a Russian affairs columnist for German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and former journalist for TV Rain, Kommersant, Izvestia, and the BBC’s Russian Service, explored the details with Footage Vs. Footage host Andrey Cherkasov.
- Russian media – first of all, of course, the federal channels – don’t have straightforward relations with Donald Trump. In 2016, they vigorously celebrated his victory; then, there were angry statements like “Trump isn’t ours.” How have Russia’s pro-government and independent media covered the election campaign in the U.S.?
- For Russian state media, for Russian propaganda, it’s important to convince its audience, which, more likely than not, knows little about the United States … that there is no real democracy in the U.S., that politics [there] are just a show, chaos and instability. And, therefore, it’s a lot better to live in Putin’s Russia.
As for independent media, seeing this trend, they involuntarily take on themselves the role of a “Biden” or the “Democrats” because they consider that Putin is Trump. And they, relatively speaking, are the opposition to Trump. In this sense, we see also a rather entertaining situation – Russian independent media’s almost non-critical support of the Democrats.
And, very unfortunately, part of the Russian opposition, in my view, makes a very big mistake when, commenting on the elections in the U.S., it switches over to a condescending, almost insulting, tone toward, for instance, Donald Trump’s supporters … [whom they call] “(collective) farmers from Oklahoma.”
- To what extent do Russians understand the election procedure in the States?
- I’ll say right away that it’s very difficult for the average Russian citizen and observer, even with a certain educational background, to understand this American federalism; this concept that, let’s say, Florida and Oklahoma decide matters in many things completely independently, in a way that [Russia’s] Krasnoyarsk Krai and Tatarstan, let’s say, do not decide. They don’t understand this very well.
They don’t understand very well, therefore, the idea of the Electoral College and voting by states … and many people not only in Russia, but in the European Union don’t understand this because majority voting is very strongly in the fabric of political views in both Russia and the E.U.
- On the Russian Internet and pro-government TV channels, they’ve all been concerned about how Michigan, Arizona, and Nevada will vote. Where does such an interest come from?
- It’s simplest of all to say that this is because there are no politics in Russia, but, in the U.S., they’re fantastically interesting. That’s one of the reasons, but not all of the reasons.
In any case, elections in the United States, in the world’s main country, superpower No. 1, worry people because they’re important. Because, when you get down to it, what the configuration of power will be in Washington impacts all of us, to some degree.
Aside from that, American politics is really a show. America really is a great democracy, and, in this sense, it seems to me, such an interest is totally natural.
- An article called Elections In The USA Have Turned Into A Show has come out on [the state-run news agency] RIA Novosti. What do you think, is this just an attention-grabbing headline or is the state news agency broadcasting the Kremlin’s unofficial position?
- To some extent, this is the Kremlin’s position; to some extent, it’s not the Kremlin’s [position], but the [position] of state propaganda serving the Kremlin. It should show people in Russia that all this -- look, crudely speaking -- Trump versus Biden is, all the same, like [flamboyant conservative politician Vladimir] Zhirinovsky at [Russia-1 TV talk show host Vladimir] Solovyov’s.
Part of the audience probably believes this, but I think it’s believing it less. I’ll bring up another headline that’s right in front of me now on the screen: A certain Ivan Danilov writes on RIA Novosti also: “Trump Showed America The Truth, Which It Won’t Be Able To Bear.”
“America won’t be able to bear the truth,” “America is dying in the grip of its scary, chaotic democracy,” “America is dying from chaos, [while there’s] order in Russia.”
From the bunker, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin explains to everyone how they must live.