3. Russian Domestic Politics
Aware of these issues, Russian official attitudes toward the White House are changing. Much was made of the early positive press Trump received from Russian TV stations, from which 80 percent of Russians get their news. For a moment, Trump seemed to be getting better press coverage than Putin—in January, Trump was mentioned 202,000 times in Russian mainstream media news coverage compared to Putin’s 147,7000. It was the first time in six years that anybody surpassed Putin for that honor.
But things began to sour in February on the heels of Flynn’s resignation, coupled with damage-control comments from the White House that Trump expected “the Russian government to de-escalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea.” Flynn resigned on February 13th; between February 5th and February 19th, Trump mentions fell by 88 percent on those all-important Russian Sunday news shows. It wouldn’t be surprising if the cutback in Trump coverage was ordered directly from the Kremlin, which can’t continue to praise Trump and raise public expectations for better relations if they aren’t actually going to improve.