The House select committee’s primetime Jan. 6. hearings are causing conniptions in Moscow.
The attempted insurrection was embraced by the Kremlin as cause célèbre, with Russian President Vladimir Putin himself calling for an investigation into the death of Ashli Babbitt, who was part of the crowd attacking the U.S. Capitol. Russia’s state-controlled media obsessively covered the notorious attack, praising the would-be insurrectionists as law-abiding protesters and criticizing the United States for prosecuting them. But now, propagandists seem to be concerned that the hearings may negatively impact the chances of re-election for their so-called “partner,” former U.S. President Donald J. Trump.
Kremlin-controlled state media has been relishing the faltering popularity ratings of President Biden, describing Trump as a shoo-in for re-election and openly hoping that a Republican takeover in the midterms would spell a change in America’s foreign policy towards Ukraine. The Jan. 6 committee hearings seem to be a fly in the ointment and now Putin’s propagandists are no longer certain of what the future elections might hold.
Assuming that a criminal prosecution against Trump is all but inevitable, state TV host Vladimir Solovyov seemed perturbed during his show The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov last Friday: “Look at what’s going on in America. A criminal prosecution against Trump and his followers is an obvious step towards a dictatorship.” Solovyov failed to mention the kind of penalties one might face in Russia for attempting a violent insurrection, where people get arrested for something so innocuous as holding up a sign that says “Peace,” or even a blank sheet of paper. Since dissenters are not invited to participate in his broadcasts, Solovyov didn’t have to worry about anyone contradicting his portrayal of events in the United States with unflattering comparisons to Russia.
Dmitry Abzalov, Director of the Center for Strategic Communications, was equally agitated: “The most crucial point is as follows: we need to understand what’s going to happen in the electoral sense. The internal political component is extremely significant. The most important events on our political calendar are local elections in Great Britain as well as a very difficult situation in July and August, since the midterms in the U.S. actually start during summer months. Every Thursday they’ll be lynching Trump in prime time.”
Political scientist and Professor of Communications Dmitry Evstafiev pointed out: “We’re watching what’s going on in the United States: an apparent escalation of political strife. Once again, they’re trying to put Trump in prison, because the November elections are moving in a bad direction… Inflation isn’t going down. Most interestingly, it isn’t going down anywhere, not even in one country… with what and with whom are they planning to fight against us in Ukraine? Whom are they planning to use to break us down? Yes, they will maintain their current level of weapon deliveries, but for how long? For three to four months.”
The same day, Igor Kozhevin, the anchor of the state TV news show Vesti on channel Rossiya-1, mentioned Biden’s declining ratings and Trump being publicly shamed for inciting an insurrection. He surmised: “Based on the latest news, it looks like Americans don’t want to see either Biden or Trump in the White House in 2024.” Reporting from the United States, Denis Davydov complained: “The hearings on prime time TV are a real show, organized by Trump’s enemies on the committee investigating the events of January 6th.” To emphasize that the hearings are nothing more than a political theater and should not be taken seriously, channel Rossiya-1 aired translated video clips condemning the proceedings that featured Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, as well as Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.
Davydov pointed out: “Almost one thousand participants in the storming of the Capitol have been criminally charged, many of them have been convicted. As far as the Democrats are concerned, the main culprit is yet to be punished: Donald Trump. Therefore, the show must go on.”
During his evening show, host Vladimir Solovyov grimly noted: “They’re going to keep trying to bleed Russia dry… Let’s not deceive ourselves, we’re dealing with a powerful economy and a mighty military-industrial complex… Yes, we’ve destroyed all the Russian and Soviet weapons they had, but things are far from being resolved. We’re entering a conflict that might last for decades, and I’m not even talking about Ukraine… They’re fighting against us with all seriousness, we’re being assailed from all directions.” He predicted that Russia’s “big, serious war against the West” would last for years.
Solovyov brought up his favorite shtick: the threat of nuclear strikes, but his posturing was spoiled by other pundits, who begrudgingly admitted that Westerners don’t seem to be taking these scare tactics seriously. Solovyov reluctantly redirected his diatribe towards conventional weapons: “They’re giving up their weapons so easily, because they’re convinced that they aren’t in any danger themselves. If they totally bleed themselves dry in terms of weapons, that gives us the opportunity of harsh countermeasures… We’re using only 15 percent of our Armed Forces. Why? Because we understand that we might need to utilize them on other fronts. Neither Europe nor the U.S. can afford a conflict on two fronts. Draw your own conclusions.”
Russia’s State Duma member, Major General Andrei Gurulyov brought up the midterms, pointing out: “The elections in Congress may directly impact the processes currently happening in Ukraine.” Referring to Putin’s recent statements, he added: “The president said we’ll take back what’s ours, and that’s what we’re going to be doing.”