Concerns are swirling within the Kremlin and splashing onto the screens of Russia’s tightly controlled state media. Moscow’s grueling invasion of Ukraine and Washington’s potential designation of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism are at the top of the list—but the upcoming U.S. elections are likewise causing some heart palpitations.
Having recovered from their initial shock over the FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s Florida estate, Russian experts and pundits started to dismiss it as much ado about nothing, albeit a convenient tale they could use to smear American democracy. Now they’re singing a different tune. In the most recent broadcast of the state TV show Sunday Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, host Vladimir Solovyov remarked, “I’m very worried for our agent Trump. They found everything at Mar-a-Lago, they got packages of documents. In all seriousness, they say he should be executed as a person that was ready to hand off nuclear secrets to Russia.”
Appearing on Solovyov’s show, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova likewise raged against the alleged persecution of Moscow’s favorite former U.S. president. In a bizarre tirade, she attempted to tie the search of Mar-a-Lago with Trump’s earlier statement that there are only two genders, male and female. “In the West, you’re not allowed to call a man a man. You can’t call a woman a woman. You’re not allowed to call a child male or female until it reaches the age of 2-3 years old,” she fumed. “In the run-up to the upcoming electoral battles, one of the contenders for a political role—the most important political role in the United States—Donald Trump steps up and says, ‘We’ve gone too far. There are only two genders: male and female.’”
Zakharova then implied that the search of Trump’s property was somehow related to his stance on gender identity. “Immediately, practically momentarily, dozens of cars of U.S. intelligence agencies, dozens—approaching hundreds—of special agents, FBI and so on, searched his home, seized boxes of some papers... and started to say that he broke the law—attention—on espionage! Five minutes from now, this man could be declared an American spy.”
Solovyov chimed in: “[He could be declared] a Russian spy... Will we try to exchange him to bring Trump to Russia? Will they include Trump on the prisoner exchange list?” On his radio show one day before, the host had bemoaned “repressions” against Trump and complained about what a terrible mess the U.S. had become. Nonetheless, the decorated Russian propagandist boasted about not being sanctioned by the United States, even though his visa recently expired. Waiting for a better political climate, Solovyov decided not to renew it just yet.
Having initially believed that better times are ahead and that Trump’s return to the White House was imminent, prominent Russian propagandists dubbed him “the Teflon Don” and predicted that he would overcome the FBI’s investigation as merely the latest speed bump in his alleged “persecution by the deep state.” Now that more details have emerged, their views have become pessimistic. Appearing on the program Solovyov Live on Monday, Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Institute of the Middle East, grimly noted that—in light of the baggage carried by Trump—the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, known in Russia as “Number Two,” may be a better bet for the Republicans. At this point, Russian talking heads aren’t quite certain whether DeSantis would be as likely as Trump to befriend Russia and dump Ukraine—but that’s where their propaganda aimed at U.S. voters would supposedly come in.
More than ever, Russian state media is stressing the need to influence Americans in the run-up to the midterms and the future presidential election. Kremlin-controlled talking heads are hoping out loud that Americans will see things their way, opting to concentrate on internal issues, abandoning Ukraine and letting go of the sanctions against Russia.
In addition to their convenient talking points, furthered by the likes of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Russian state media has also announced that it would like to pipe news from Russia straight into the U.S. During Monday’s broadcast of The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, Americanist Dmitry Drobnitsky said, “The main point of polarization is fast approaching. In November, people in the West have to hear the Russian news, especially in light of the growing interest... We need to break through those barriers, why isn’t anyone doing that? That will be one of the most important components of our future success.”