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Does Putin really ‘prefer Biden to Trump’?

Sleeping eagle, hidden bear. Credit: Getty

February 15, 2024 - 4:15pm

Having reportedly ordered an extensive influence campaign aimed at securing Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election, it appears that Vladimir Putin may have suffered a degree of buyer’s remorse afterwards. Speaking yesterday to Russian state television, Putin said that his government would “work with any US leader who wins the trust of the American people” but, if forced to choose between Trump and Joe Biden, he would favour the current President for being “more experienced, predictable, an old-school politician”. 

Any expression of support from Putin for Biden seems, at first glance, highly surprising. Not only has Biden publicly labelled Russia’s leader “a murderous dictator” and “a pure thug”, but he has also sent vast quantities of aid to Ukraine to fulfil his pledge of supporting Kyiv for  “as long as it takes”.    

By contrast, Putin has been known to sing Trump’s praises, describing him as “outstanding” and “talented”. What’s more, the Republican frontrunner is the candidate more likely to help Putin achieve his revanchist ambitions — on Saturday, Trump made his now-infamous comments that he would “encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to any “delinquent” Nato members who were not meeting defence spending targets. 

Those remarks drew swift condemnation from both Democrats and Republicans, with White House spokesman Andrew Bates castigating them as “appalling and unhinged”, while Trump’s rival for the Republican nomination Nikki Haley told him not to “take the side of a thug who kills his opponents”. Several critics painted Trump as pliantly in thrall to a foreign leader — Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff slammed Trump for being “more interested in […] pleasing Putin than protecting our allies” and, just one day before Putin’s endorsement, Biden accused Trump of having “bowed down to a Russian dictator”. 

Putin’s support for Biden, therefore, has in fact proven a boon to Trump in the current political climate, helping him fend off accusations of being weak on Russia and instead portray himself as the strongman candidate Putin truly fears. Yesterday, addressing a South Carolina rally, Trump eagerly seized upon the Russian President’s comments, saying they constituted “a compliment” and “a good thing”. Further asserting his hardline credentials, he claimed that his sanctions on Nord Stream 2 mean Putin is “not a fan”, whereas a Biden re-election would constitute the Russian leader being “given everything he wants, including Ukraine. That’s a gift.”

Despite this newfound avowed toughness on Russia, Putin will not have forgotten that Trump suggested letting Russia “take over” parts of Ukraine in a negotiated deal to end the war and boasted that he could, if re-elected, end the conflict within 24 hours. More recently, Trump has pressed Republicans to thwart the foreign aid package which would give Kyiv an additional $60.1 billion. This week, he was condemning US foreign aid as “stupid” and admitting that he and Putin get along. 

Biden may be more experienced and predictable, but Putin knows Trump is his best hope of US aid to Ukraine being cut off. His claim to favour Biden serves purely to help Trump portray himself as a hawk who is tough on the Russian President rather than in his pocket. Don’t be fooled by his latest comments: Putin is doing all he can to get Trump back in the White House. 


Bethany Elliott is a writer specialising in Russia and Eastern Europe.

BethanyAElliott

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago

Trump is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. If Putin said he favoured Trump, you can imagine the response from the regime media.

They’re words. That’s it. Nothing more. Who cares who Putin favours. The fact is Putin invaded Ukraine under Biden’s watch, not Trump. The author also fails to mention that Trump re-armed Ukraine during his term, something that Obama failed to do.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It does matter who he favours. It’s just that you can’t tell who that is from the words that come out of his mouth.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
5 months ago

Are we really going to have to put up with TDS articles like this from now until Nov?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
5 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Looks like it.

We didn’t need an article explaining to us what Putin’s intention was with his pro-Biden comment.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the Kremlin after this and the Tucker Carlson interview. Putin and his pals must be laughing all day.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Putin doesn’t seem like he has too many ‘pals’…

Martin M
Martin M
5 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

He had one once, but the guy died in a plane crash.

Peter B
Peter B
5 months ago

Does anyone seriously think that Putin’s views (which are all over the place here) make any real difference to the US electorate ?
It’s like people on comment boards who seem to believe that the efforts of others who disagree with them somehow influence stock prices.

j watson
j watson
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Putin thinks they do quite clearly. And whilst it won’t be the main ‘swing’ issue he knows every bit helps.

R Wright
R Wright
5 months ago

Remember how every single member of the western establishment spent three years obsessed about Russia influencing the outcome of the 2016 election and it turned out to be a nothingburger? I remember.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago

Putin knows what he’s getting with Biden and Joe’s handlers. Trump is more of a wild card. Saying someone in “predictable” is not a value judgment. A meth head is predictable. So is someone with OCD.
Who Putin favors does not necessarily tie to who anyone else favors, nor does it explain why.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
5 months ago

Putin is probably tired of Trump’s obsequious attempts to suck up to him.
Hideously embarrassing for everyone…

Friedrich Tellberg
Friedrich Tellberg
5 months ago

I tend to agree. Trump is too much of a baffoon to Putin’s mind, with too many of the characteristics he despises in Americans, which he thinks are superficial and completely alien to the deep Russian soul. It might be for the same reason that he was disappointed after the Tucker Carlson interview. Putin wants Russia to be the peer of the US, but at the same time believes that Americans never even come close to the sublime Russian wisdom and spirit. In a Russian context, it is degrading to have a “friend” like Trump.

Martin M
Martin M
5 months ago

The “deep Russian soul”? Is that the one that finds solace only in vodka and war crimes?

Martin M
Martin M
5 months ago

Trump is “Putin’s Poodle”. That much is clear.

j watson
j watson
5 months ago

Many of the usual UnHerd crowd won’t have welcomed the obvious conclusion this is all part of Putin’s craftiness and help for Trump. Putin supports Trump. Who’s side you on folks?

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
5 months ago

If he gets Joe then he may well get Kamala and as such is eminently placed to win World War III.