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As Russia’s war of aggression continues to ravage its neighbor, the Kremlin’s propaganda apparatus has been more blatant than ever in outlining the country’s goals for its biggest nemesis: the U.S.
Last week, American intelligence officials reportedly assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin may use the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine as a pretext to order a new campaign to interfere in U.S. elections. Though AP reported that “it is not yet clear which candidates Russia might try to promote or what methods it might use,” Russian state media seem to be in agreement that former U.S. President Donald Trump remains Moscow’s candidate of choice.
The time is coming “to again help our partner Trump to become president,” state TV host Evgeny Popov recently declared. On Thursday’s edition of the state television show The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, Putin’s pet pundits offered an update on plans for 2024.
“We’re trying to feel our way, figuring out the first steps. What can we do in 2023, 2024?,” Russian “Americanist” Malek Dudakov, a political scientist specializing in the U.S., said. He suggested that Russia’s interference in the upcoming elections is still in its early stages, and that more will be accomplished after the war is over and frosty relations between the U.S. and Russia start to warm up. “When things thaw out and the presidential race for 2024 is firmly on the agenda, there’ll be moments we can use,” he added. “The most banal approach I can think of is to invite Trump—before he announces he’s running for President—to some future summit in liberated Mariupol.”
Dmitry Drobnitsky, an omnipresent “Americanist” on Soloviev’s show, suggested that Tulsi Gabbard should be invited along with Trump. Dudakov agreed: “Tulsi Gabbard would also be great. Maybe Trump will take her as his vice-president?” Gabbard has recently become a fixture of state television for her pro-Russian talking points, and has even been described as a “Russian agent” by the Kremlin’s propaganda machine.
If state television is any indication, the real agenda of the Kremlin’s operatives was never limited to boosting any particular candidates, but rather aimed to harm America as a whole. Dudakov stressed: “With Europe, economic wars should take priority. With America, we should be working to amplify the divisions and—in light of our limited abilities—to deepen the polarization of American society.”
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He went on: “There is a horrific polarization of society in the United States, very serious conflicts between the Democrats and Republicans that keep expanding. You’ve already mentioned that America is a dying empire—and most empires weren’t conquered, they were destroyed from within. The same fate likely awaits America in the near decade. That’s why, when all the processes are thawed, Russia might get the chance to play on that.”
Dudakov’s Twitter feed, which he maintains despite the service being blocked in Russia, offers a glimpse into his own propaganda efforts. Tweeting as “Duderman67,” Dudakov focuses on criticizing U.S. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Hillary Clinton—while boosting Trump.
On his Thursday show, host Soloviev argued that Russia wasn’t fighting against the United States with full competency just yet, and griped about losing the main weapon behind enemy lines: “the brilliantly working structure of RT,” the Kremlin-funded state TV network that was banished from U.S. cable stations last month.
He then offered up his own ideas about how to influence American voters without the help of RT: “I would act through various diasporas. For example, I would work with the Spanish-speaking media—since America is becoming predominantly Spanish-speaking, with the colossal influence of Latin America, I would work through their press, through those narratives, moving in that direction… they aren’t allowing us to work with American media directly, but we have many opportunities that we aren’t using thus far.”
Appearing on Soloviev’s show two days earlier, Vitaly Tretyakov, dean of the Moscow State University's School of Television, complained that Russia: “had military hypersonic weapons, but we don’t have informational hypersonic weapons… all of our forces need to be dedicated to that. We don’t have info-weapons equal in strength to our hypersonic weapons... as opposed to what they have. You can’t survive in this world without winning an info-war. That is out of the question.”
Pundit Karen Shakhnazarov suggested: “I would find it useful to break diplomatic relations with the United States. I don’t see any point in maintaining them. And that would deliver a crushing blow to Biden. There are plenty of people in the U.S. who say that he is bringing us all to the edge of nuclear war. That will be a strong signal.”
That wasn’t the only talk of nuclear war on Soloviev’s show this week. On Thursday, Soloviev confirmed a well-known concept frequently aired on state media when he acknowledged: “De facto, we aren’t fighting a campaign against Ukraine, but against the entire West.” A parade of pundits recounted various ways U.S. sanctions are affecting the Russian economy, and the limited avenues for Russian retaliation. Soloviev resorted to pulling out his beloved trump card designed to intimidate the West: the threat of nuclear war. He asked: “Maybe it’s time we strike them? Since we’re already a pariah state, a war criminal, if everything is so bad.”
Short of nuclear holocaust, it is now clear that Russia is focusing its efforts on distracting America from its foreign policy objectives by threatening to meddle in U.S. internal affairs. Speaking about the upcoming midterm elections on Soloviev’s show last week, Konstantin Dolgov, the deputy chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy of Russia’s Federation Council, predicted that “the results will apparently not be good for the Democrats,” because of rising gas prices in the U.S. But the midterms, he emphasized, are “just a rehearsal. The main elections are further ahead and preparations for those are already underway.”