Election 2016 in Global Context: Russia

This article is the third in a series about how foreign media covers the election. Read the first article about Israel here and the second about Ghana here.

The first debate, this past week, between presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had Russian media outlets in a flurry of activity and commentary. Like many American media outlets, Russian media networks such as Sputnik and RT covered this week’s debate extensively.

While neither outlet has spared Trump, each has been more lenient in reporting on his rally speeches. Both Russian outlets are state-sponsored, and have been dismantling the notion that the Kremlin is backing the Republican candidate, Trump, even ironically labeling the rhetoric akin to “McCarthyism.”

Even more independent outlets such as the Moscow Times, which has been more balanced in their coverage, has published stories claiming Clinton’s lack of appeal as a candidate will fail her come election day.

Sputnik International took a similar route, highlighting her “smear campaign” against Russia in two almost identical articles that used the same header image.

Interestingly enough, a report by The Interpreter, a magazine that translates Russian articles in order to help foreign journalists, argues that the election coverage comes mostly from the English-language Russian news sites. Domestic news outlets within Russia tend aggregate U.S. reports from the Washington Post or Reuters.

From panic attacks to dementia, many Russian television outlets, such as Vesti, weekend news program with state ties, has used a myriad of tactics to continue the controversy. They cited previously debunked video clips of the Democratic presidential candidate, and even went a step further by dedicating 11 minutes of their programming on August 21st to discussing an array of Clinton conspiracies, including those surrounding her health and the email leaks.

With the blame for the leak at the Democratic National Committee being directly connected back to the Kremlin by American pundits and candidates, domestic Russian news outlets have also been attentive to the accusations Clinton has made about Moscow.

RBC News went as far as claiming the leak may be able to split the Democratic Party and tarnish Secretary Clinton’s reputation.

The Moscow Times has focused in on Clinton’s personality traits, with recurring stories about how she is unfit to lead as President of the United States. That is why many Russian state newspapers are more inclined to favor Trump for the Presidency, because of his strong-man persona.

Clinton also receives criticism within Russia because of decisions she made during her tenure as Secretary of State. Documented in a recent Time article, in 2009 Secretary Clinton issued statements of support to Putin’s opposition when he was forced to step down as president to the role of prime minister, per constitutional term limits. As Secretary, Clinton had made an effort to create better relations with then-President Dmitry Medvedev, a move seen as an effort to sidestep Putin’s role as Prime Minister.

Izvestia, a daily Russian newspaper that is pro-Moscow, ran a story essentially stating that a Clinton victory in November would guarantee a conflict with Russia due to her previous actions.

This is further corroborated by a poll conducted by the Moscow Times, 53 percent of Russians believe that if Clinton becomes the next president, that bilateral relations between the U.S. and Russia will deteriorate.

“This eccentric and sharp politician billionaire is more appealing [to Russians] than Hillary Clinton, who is remembered, above all, for a tough anti-Russian policy while U.S. secretary of state,” said VTsIOM CEO Valery Fedorov.

In a CNN story about global perspectives of the election, Mikhail Fishman, editor-in-chief of the Moscow Times, stated that from a geopolitical perspective, “Vladimir Putin looks at Mr. Trump – a populist who seems willing to throw the usual values to the wind – as his natural ally, and a potential vehicle for his own global interests”

Fishman also added that Trump is the top-choice as he not only challenges a political faction, but the core of the U.S. democratic system itself. An institution which has been at odds with Russia tracing back to the onset of World War II.

Edouard Limonov, in an article in Izvestia stated that “we prefer Trump because he accepts Russia as the state of tough men.”

The narrative within Russia has seen Trump as an isolationist above all in his foreign policy, someone wouldn’t meddle in Russian geopolitical affairs. Clinton, on the other hand, is seen as an interventionist. Analyzing the coverage of all of these different news sites, one can conclude that it’s not that Moscow is pro-Trump – they just really despise Hillary.

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