While American voters navigate through the political cesspool known as the mainstream media, Russia and Russians view the U.S. presidential election with a combination of incomprehension and amusement. It doesn’t matter who will move into the White House in January because Russians are resigned to the reality the next president will be just as hostile to Russia as Barack Obama.
Russians like very much and respect their president Vladimir Putin. Much is expected of him and he more times than not he delivers – this alone sets Putin apart from his peers around the world. Russians are also accustomed to the endless barrage of negative western media of their head of state. Their reaction: a mixture of “he must be doing something right” and the west’s envy of a strong and decisive leader.
When it comes to the U.S. presidential election, many in Russia are bemused by it – what they see is a spectacle without much substance. They observe a media obsessed with gossip, spin, and petty chitchat – essentially a beauty contest with ugly contestants. The thought that Putin would intentionally insert him into this circus strikes many as rather absurd. The American political established is viewed with great disbelief. American politicians preach about so-called liberal values, while being exceptionally arrogant, ignorant and hypocritical in their actions. The American political elite and its pliant corporate media are simply not to be trusted.
In this election cycle there are two main candidates. Republican Donald Trump appears to be a little less hostile than Democrat Hillary Clinton. But Russians don’t think in terms of American election cycles – they reflect on a quarter century of endless ridicule and loathing coming from the United States. They remember how some in Washington bragged about how it played a role in Russia’s 1996 presidential campaign – remember “Saving Boris?” They also find it curious that the Democratic National Committee rigged their own party’s primary, only to blame Russia for exposing this fraud. The American media doesn’t appear to be overly concerned with the wrong doing of the DNC. Some Russians I know find this puzzling.
The status of Crimea has gotten a lot of play in the campaign. Trump says the people living on the peninsula appear to prefer to be united with Russia. This is true. However, as far as Russians are concerned the opinions of Trump or Clinton are of no interest – Crimea is now part of Russia and it will remain so. American politicians and the media echo chamber can chatter all they want about Trump’s “Crimea position,” but no amount of mindless blather will change Russia’s borders. This is the position of the Russian people!
NATO has also been a theme. Trumps supports reforming the military alliance, for Clinton NATO is one of the establishment’s security holy cows not to be tinkered with. Russia sees NATO as an existential threat – reformed or not reformed. When a vast military alliance moves onto yours borders, you really don’t think much about nuances. Oh! And no one in Russia gives a hoot about Estonia – even Estonians seem not to care given the migration out of the country.
Russians are used to the west talking about them as if they are devoid of any sense of agency. Nothing could be further from the truth. When watching the American election the conclusion they draw this the following: nothing good will come form this election that could remotely benefit Russia. Americans can keep their so-called democracy and keep Russia out of it.
Peter Lavelle is host of RT’s political debate program CrossTalk. His views may or may not reflect those of his employer.