Standort: / Meldung: "Is Russia Trying to Influence the US Elections?"

Charles Maynes Moscow

Journalist in Moscow

8. 11. 2016 - 14:52

Is Russia Trying to Influence the US Elections?

As the US Presidential campaign winds down to its last agonizing hours, Kremlin presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov issued Russia's own final reassurance to US voters: Russia has no intention of interfering in America's elections.

Never mind White House charges of Kremlin cyber-espionage of Democratic Party computers by hacker bears Fancy and Cozy. Never mind the Wikileaks drip of Clinton campaign emails that US intelligence says comes giftwrapped courtesy of Russia's secret services. And never mind a relentlessly partisan Russian state media campaign that has promoted one candidate over another – both at home and abroad – with a stew of conspiracy and innuendo.

In a year where Russia has taken center stage role in America's elections, the Kremlin spokesman dismissed interest in any possible Russian subterfuge as simply "absurd."

"{The Americans} have enough problems without us," said Peskov.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov


Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov

Welcome to the next phase of the Kremlin's take on America's elections:
If Donald Trump isn't elected November 8th it's because American democracy is corrupt and broken.

Wir begleiten den Wahltag - der hierzulande eigentlich eine Wahlnacht ist - am Dienstag vom Nachmittag bis in die frühen Morgenstunden am Mittwoch. Das Programm im Detail.

In the run up to election day, Russian state television is warning of 'dead souls' rising from the grave to vote (for Clinton); 'carousel' voting in the inner cities (for Clinton), decrepit American election infrastructure prone to manipulation (by Clinton); and suggesting the will of American voters (for Trump) will be subverted by the U.S. electoral college delegates {for Clinton).

Dmitry Kiselev, anchor of the weekly Vesti Nedeli ("News of the Week"), whose nationally televised program has pushed conspiracies surrounding the American vote for months, predicted nothing short of a stolen election (by, guess who? Clinton).

"After these elections, the US may find its addressing itself with the same phrase that it awards others: that the US elections were not transparent, were conducted without real competition, and included mass falsifications and government abuse."

"They cannot," concluded Kiselev, "be considered free or democratic."

In other words, it's classic "trolling" says Vladimir Frolov, a foreign policy analyst and columnist with The Moscow Times. "The intent is not to sway the election but to discredit the system. To show that so-called American democracy stinks. It's a circus and nothing to envy."

Kremlin Favorite?

Even to casual Russia observers, the Kremlin's preference for a Donald Trump presidency has been apparent, if not understandable.

Trump's positions on key issues of the day – from Syria, to Ukraine, to NATO's expansion into eastern Europe – dovetail if not directly mirror Russia's own policies. (From the Kremlin's perspective, "what's not to like?" asks Frolov. )

By contrast, state media has relentlessly embraced far-ranging conspiracies surrounding Hillary Clinton's campaign: Mrs. Clinton is sick and ailing; she is corrupt and facing certain indictment or prison; and she is beholden to nefarious dark forces, including radical terrorist groups.

Most importantly, Clinton is portrayed as virulently anti-Russian.

Putin's antipathy to the Democratic Party nominee, in particular, is well known. In 2011, he accused Clinton, then US Secretary of State, of "giving the signal" to thousands of Russians who protested rigged elections during the country's parliamentary elections.

Polls reflect the pileup of negative coverage since.

Over a third of Russians believe a Trump presidency will bring an improvement in relations. By contrast, a majority think US-Russian relations – already deeply troubled – will suffer more under a future Clinton administration. A separate poll showed nearly half of Russians think a direct war between the US and Russia likely.

Amid the growing Russia controversy this election season, Vladimir Putin has denounced candidates for playing "the Russia card." Moscow, said Putin, was willing to work with either Trump or Clinton --- provided the new occupant in the White House meets Russian interests halfway. Besides, asked the Russina leader, "how do we know what either candidate would do once in office?"

Indeed, it's worth pointing out that none of this suggests a grand secret alliance between the Kremlin and Trump Tower. Clinton campaign charges that Trump is colluding with the Russian authorities notwithstanding, FBI-led investigations into the issue have found no proof.

But there is a sense that Russian media and the Trump campaign work from the same talking points; or – perhaps -- simply reading and watching and referencing one another on a regular basis. The result is a feedback loop but opens both Russia and the Trump campaign to charges of something more.

Konstantin von Eggart, a long time analyst and host of the independent TV Rain channel's coverage of the US elections, says he finds the Kremlin's overt tilt towards Donald Trump "bizarre."

"I think Russia's policy is a big blunder," says von Eggart. "Even in the Soviet days the Politburo wasn't influencing in the US elections because they knew they'd have to work with whoever was the next American president."

Yet von Eggart predicts the Kremlin will double down in the event of a Clinton win on November 8th. "They'll blow out of proportion any irregularities to say the Trump was denied victory."

The hope, he adds, is that Trump will continue to "sew chaos" in the US political system, distracting Washington elites while Moscow defends its own interests.

Meanwhile, foreign policy analyst Frolov argues the Kremlin's focus on undermining the current US campaign is merely "a shot across the bow" ahead of Russia's own presidential elections – scheduled for 2018.

Vladimir Putin, in and out of power since 1999, has yet to declare himself a candidate. But Frolov suggested a future memo to Washington regarding the election day 2018 was already being drafted:

The message: "Who are you to judge?"