Why Russia’s Putin is holding back on congratulating President-elect Biden


Russian officials, including Putin, also have had some tart messages about the legitimacy of the U.S. election in recent days, citing what they called a “standoff,” after the chaotic period triggered by Trump’s refusal to concede defeat.

But Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, insisted Thursday that no one should draw conclusions about Russia withholding congratulations to Biden.

In his daily phone call with journalists, Peskov was asked if the West might view the delay as a sign that the Kremlin did not recognize Biden’s victory.

“This is absolutely the incorrect interpretation,” said Peskov. “The Russian president will congratulate the U.S. president-elect in due course, after the election results are summed up. The election results have not been summed up yet.”

Putin has called the delay “absolutely normal.” Not everyone sees it that way.

“Putin still has not congratulated Biden, the only major world leader not to do so. Keep it classy, Vladimir,” Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, tweeted Saturday.

“Thankfully, no one in the Biden orbit really cares,” McFaul added Tuesday. “But Putin associating himself with Sidney Powell and Rudy as the rest of the world moves on is not a good look,” he tweeted, referring to the Trump legal team on election challenges led by Rudolph W. Giuliani. (Powell has been removed from the team.)

The Kremlin foot-dragging comes with various Russian officials predicting that relations would remain in the deep freeze, warning that Biden’s team would probably pursue a tougher approach toward Moscow.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recognized the result Nov. 13, congratulating Biden. President Xi Jinping then called Biden on Wednesday and left a congratulatory message, formalizing China’s recognition of the president-elect.

Xi’s move came after the head of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, finally set the presidential transition in motion Monday, and Trump accepted the transition while still insisting he won. He continues to hammer away at his claims of sweeping election fraud, without evidence.

Trump’s legal team has lost a string of lawsuits, however polling indicates it has convinced many Republicans that the election was tainted.

It is a message amplified by Russian officials from Putin down. The Russian leader said on Russian state television Sunday that it was up to Americans to determine the legitimacy of the vote.

“It is primarily for Americans to decide whether the authorities are legitimate or not,” Putin said, asked about whether the election was legitimate.

Referring to Biden as “the presidential candidate,” Putin said in the Nov. 22 interview that the fact he had not yet congratulated him could not spoil Moscow’s relations with Washington because they were already spoiled.

He said the delay was due to the “internal political standoff” in the United States and “not that we like or dislike someone.”

“We’ll work with anyone trusted by the American people. But who in particular is given this trust should be indicated either through the political custom of one side conceding the other’s victory, or the final election results should be released in a legitimate and legal manner. This is absolutely normal. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Putin said.

“Between the lines message from Putin is clear,” tweeted Andrew S. Weiss, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace — that Biden “has a legitimacy problem.”

Putin also has taken shots at the U.S. political system, citing the fact that at times the elected president did not win the popular vote.

“Is it democratic? In my view, the question is obvious,” he said. “Well, I’m saying it not to stigmatize the U.S. political or election system,” he said.

The GSA move to recognize Biden as president-elect to enable the transition to move forward was “not enough,” spokesman Peskov said Tuesday.

“The president-elect should be named, the incumbent president should recognize the results of the election, and all legal actions should be completed,” Peskov said.

Russia has a history of using social media, including during the 2020 election, to sow disinformation in the United States, boost Trump and intensify doubts and divisions.

The chairman of the Russian Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, predicted Tuesday that Biden’s foreign policy team would take a tough anti-Russian stance. But he said at least the new team of diplomats would be professional and therefore easier to deal with.

“I know from my own diplomatic experience that it would be easier for us to work with professional diplomats,” he told journalists, “even if they don’t favor us that much overall.”

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