Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 4 November 2020
U.S. Election: What Is Russia Counting On?
The longer it takes to announce the winner of the U.S. presidential runoff, the better it looks from Moscow’s point of view – as Russia is setting its eyes on neither of the candidates in the 2020 vote. Russia’s goal is far from hoping for the victory of either Donald Trump or Joe Biden; its true purpose is to shake the political situation in the United States and even spark a crisis in the U.S. election system, sending shockwaves into the American democratic model. The Kremlin can also enjoy the U.S. post-election turmoil to go ahead with its own political operations – like those in the post-Soviet area.
Sergey Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s spy agency, spoke in the wake of the final voting day in the United States, with his words seen as a stance of the siloviki camp whose members take a firm position in the Russian leadership and seek a confrontation with the West abroad and tougher repression at home. Speaking to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) said it does not matter who wins the U.S. presidential race as neither the Republicans nor Democrats are interested in improving equal ties with Russia. In fact, Naryshkin reiterated what Moscow officials had said sometime before on a similarly negative attitude to forging better ties with Washington when either Biden is newly elected or Trump wins another term in office. However, it is worth recalling a part of the interview where Naryshkin touched upon U.S. election mechanisms. What is visible is that Russia – while waging its information warfare campaign – has the intention of using the U.S. political turmoil to attack the core of American democracy. If Naryshkin argues that mail-in ballots might cause delays in the results, thus giving the ground to question them and keep discrepancies resonate within American society, it is the fact that Russian intelligence services will focus on this. To do so, they will mobilize their agents of influence or disseminate proper content on social media channels. What is striking is Naryshkin’s verbal statement about “the disease of the American state and society.” His words clearly confirm the goals of Russian policy toward the U.S. vote. Moscow’s mission is to destabilize the American state as long as it is possible to cripple the legitimacy of the presidential winner once finally elected. A new U.S. leader holding a doubtful mandate – especially in the eyes of the adverse political camp – is the dream scenario for the Kremlin. It has always been Moscow’s strategic aim to make the U.S. establishment focus more on its domestic affairs rather than foreign ones. This time no champagne corks popped – nor they will – in Moscow as they might have in 2016 after Trump won the White House. The Kremlin has adopted a far more cautious stance and is pleased to get new updates from Washington. If it takes days – or even weeks – to elect the new U.S. president, with courts being involved in the whole process, Moscow will gain enough time to put its plans into practice in such hotbeds as Belarus, the Caucasus, and Syria.
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