News Brief

Midterm Result ‘Not The Worst,’ says Russian Media

The split result of the US midterms has divided Russian media outlets too. While none are celebrating the Democrats winning back the House of Representatives, there are some commentators who see a potential upside for Russia — if the United States sinks further into rancor and division.

In the short term, many media sites either controlled or sympathetic to the Kremlin are concerned that the Democrats will intensify pressure on Russia, stymieing President Donald Trump’s outreach to President Vladimir Putin. Their victory increases the “likelihood of more sanctions,” warned the RBC news site, which is run by a media group close to the Russian leader.

The irony, of course, is that Moscow used to welcome the Democrats gaining power, as it has historically seen the party as more accommodating. But as with almost everything in the Trump era, times have changed.

The Russian government’s paper of record, Rossiya Gazeta, did not seem so concerned about new sanctions, saying that the result means a political stalemate that “will paralyze the decision-making process” in the United States.

Quoted in the popular news and lifestyle site, Gazeta. Ru, political analyst Sergei Stankievich took a similar view, saying it was “not the worst outcome for Russia.” What he called America’s “divided government” stops the Democrats from removing Trump, he argued, and at the same time restricts the US president’s actions.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, tried to shrug off the result. The Kremlin does not expect complications in Russian-American relations, he said, since the situation is already “quite complicated”.

There was a tone of schadenfreude in some pieces running on government media outlets. “American society and the American political system have failed,” said Ivan Danilov in a comment piece for RIA Novosti. With Trump already in effect declaring war on the Democrat-controlled House, it was now “only a matter of time,” he predicted, before the country suffers “a major political and social crisis.”

The Kremlin-funded Sputnik News Agency highlighted what it called “panic” in the US over the fate of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, following Trump’s sacking of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

One person who may be disappointed, though, with Russian coverage of the midterms is Republican Dana Rohrabacher, who became known as “Putin’s favorite Congressman” because of his persistent support for Russia, but who lost his seat in Tuesday’s vote. But the Russian media don’t seem to rate his influence quite so highly, as they barely gave his defeat a mention.

Kremlin-funded RT (formerly Russia Today) was more concerned with clarifying the status of Crimea, after the US President tried to blame what he called the “Obama regime” for the peninsula’s annexation in 2014.

As he sought to deflect a reporter’s question about the issue during a combative post-election news conference, he was in effect absolving Putin of any responsibility too. But RT wasn’t happy with that, saying Trump was “apparently unaware that the transfer [of Crimea] was the result of a referendum and that Ukraine is a sovereign nation.”