Why has interest in the US presidential elections declined in Russia?


MOSCOW – Russians are not paying as much attention to the US presidential election this year as they did in 2016.

Four years ago, they watched them closely, as the Kremlin presented the vote as a tough trade-off between a warming relationship under President Donald Trump and growing hostility under Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

In November 2016, Russians greeted Donald Trump’s election with nightly parties.

All of this came against the backdrop of a feeling created by candidate Trump and the Kremlin that Trump’s victory would also be a victory for US-Russian relations.

“I think it would be great if we got along with Russia,” President Trump said at the time.

However, observers note that this optimism has noticeably diminished against the background of the 2020 election race.

“I am sure that the Kremlin, unlike the general public, is very closely watching [за выборами в США], analyzes, and thinks what it can mean for Russia, – says political analyst Maria Lipman. “But he doesn’t want to create expectations.”

Trump’s pledges to breathe new life into U.S.-Russian relations have never materialized.

First attempts at dialogue were soon intercepted by a federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, Kremlin officials said.

Washington’s official conclusion was that Russia was trying to reverse the race in Trump’s favor, a claim that both the president and the Kremlin reject.

The introduction of a number of US sanctions against Russia in connection with the 2016 elections and other issues left Kremlin officials with almost no illusions about Trump’s ability to build relations on his own, some analysts noted.

“They understand that although the US president is a very influential figure in politics, he is not an American king,” said Vladimir Batyuk, an analyst at the Institute for the United States and Canada.

As a result, we have a more subdued interest in Russia in the 2020 US elections, where Trump and his Democrat opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, are fighting for the White House.

The publicity and press coverage of the campaign was minimal.

Polls show that almost two-thirds of Russians do not give preference to one candidate or another. Many do not follow them or are disappointed.

“I don’t expect anything else,” said businessman Vladimir, who refused to give his last name. “Because I really hoped Trump could make a difference.”

Polls show that most Russians know almost nothing about Biden.

“I don’t know anything about him,” said pensioner Valentina. “I haven’t heard of him.”

But President Vladimir Putin certainly heard. He criticized the former vice president for “anti-Russian rhetoric” during the campaign, while some US intelligence officials warn that the Kremlin may again try to interfere in the election.

But with Biden in the lead in most polls, Putin insists he’s willing to work with any winner of the White House struggle.

It is a safe diplomatic statement and a tacit admission that, whether Trump is re-elected for a second term or the Biden administration takes office, the hangover from the 2016 race may last for a long time in US-Russian relations.

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