Russian state media is, at least on the surface, jubilant about the outcome of the video summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was focused on addressing Russia’s potential further incursion into Ukraine. State media outlet Vesti described the talks as “historic negotiations.” State TV host Olga Skabeeva summed up the aftermath of the meeting during Wednesday’s broadcast of Russia’s 60 Minutes: “WWIII is canceled—for now.”
Suggesting that the delay afforded by the summit is merely temporary, Skabeeva quoted U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland, who said that Putin wants not only to create a Soviet Union 2.0, but to control Eastern Europe as a whole. “All I would like to say about that—the sooner, the better,” she said. “Russia won the first round,” Vladimir Shamanov, who heads Moscow’s parliamentary defense committee, added.
The shadow of former President Donald J. Trump hovered over talks between the United States and Russia. On Tuesday, as the summit was about to begin, Skabeeva alleged that Trump’s approval ratings were much higher than Biden’s. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pointed out that the special channel used for the video exchange between the presidents was created during Trump’s tenure: “This is a secure channel. It was created according to decisions that were made by previous administrations. It was inactive but technologically maintained in a working state. Now we have decided to use it for the heads of state. It creates the effect of a rather personal communication and... makes it possible to discuss very, very secretive topics.”
Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, who served as a senior official in the Trump administration’s Department of Defense, gave an interview to Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti complaining that Biden “disregarded Russia’s interests” and demonstrated his “inability to compromise.” This, Macgregor complained, serves as cause for Putin’s “surprise and dismay” with the stance of the current American leadership.
Macgregor is apparently comfortable with Kremlin-funded state media, having sat down for multiple interviews on RT over the years. He went on: “Washington has only one interest in the current crisis—to prevent unnecessary war between Ukraine and Russia. But Biden and his friends deliberately ignored this interest because it would involve compromise. As a morally righteous leftist, he is incapable of compromise.”
Every time Trump makes a derogatory statement about his successor, Russian state media has showcased and applauded his commentary. The former president’s position on Ukraine garnered special attention—and praise, with experts pontificating that under Trump, there would be no need for such a summit. Two weeks before the talks between Biden and Putin, Trump appeared on Fox News for an interview with Sean Hannity. He said, in part: “I don't want to fight the battle for Ukraine, they've got to fight their own battles.”
Trump’s words delighted pro-Kremlin propagandists. State TV show The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev aired a translated clip of his statements to Hannity, and host Vladimir Soloviev introduced it by pointing out: “Things were so good under Trump... Listen to Trumpushka.” After listening to Trump dismiss the idea of helping Ukraine fight off Russian aggression, Soloviev sighed: “[He is] so sorely missed.”
A day earlier, Soloviev had played a clip of Trump’s interview with Mark Levin, on Fox News' Life, Liberty and Levin, in which the former U.S. president bashed the Mueller report for undermining U.S. relations with Russia. At the conclusion of Trump’s commentary, Soloviev pumped his fist and exclaimed, “He said it well. Thank you, Donald Fredovych!”
Just hours after Biden concluded his video summit with Putin, Trump put out a statement through his Save America PAC, in which he said: “Vladimir Putin looks at our pathetic surrender in Afghanistan... He then looks at Biden. He is not worried!” Russian state media immediately broadcast Trump’s comments on the Rossiya-24 TV channel.
Though most Russian experts and pundits had mainly negative expectations for the summit, they acted pleasantly surprised in its aftermath. The most recent version of the National Defense Spending Act (NDAA) for 2022 was released the day of the Biden-Putin talks. Missing from the final legislation was a provision passed by the House that directed Biden to impose sanctions over Nord Stream 2, as well as an amendment that would have banned Americans from purchasing Russian sovereign debt. Also missing was an amendment to a defense budget bill by Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), which sought to punish 35 Russian officials, businessmen, and Kremlin propagandists. The list was compiled by the Anti-Corruption Foundation, or FBK, a group linked to jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
During his evening broadcast on Tuesday, state TV host Vladimir Soloviev offered up his hot take on the call. “They [the U.S.] didn’t try to project external strength... or to insult the Russian side or President Putin... The news kept coming in: the [potential] sanctions against Nord Stream 2 have been taken out. The amendment to the Defense Budget pertaining to the sovereign debt of the Russian Federation has been removed. The amendment with the list of 35 personal sanctions has been canceled, where I was named.” Soloviev happily grinned and giggled.
Politologist Dmitry Drobnitsky concurred: “We forced them to show all of their cards. They opened up a box of candy, even though it was not their biggest one.”
Now, Russian state media outlets are forecasting that Trump would likely win over Biden in 2024 should he decide to run—and perhaps anticipating his return with an even bigger box of candy for Putin.