The first impediment for Mr. Biden is straightforward: His message will not get a good airing. Television, dominated by channels run or controlled by the state, remains the main source of news for three-quarters of Russians, so most people in Russia will see the American president through the Kremlin’s eyes. Independent media, recently curtailed by the authorities declaring several prominent outlets to be “foreign agents,” won’t be able to redress the imbalance.
Yet even without this media filter, Mr. Putin has no reason to fear any aspersions Mr. Biden might cast his way. Though the president’s popularity has waned a touch since its peak in 2014, he retains the trust and approval of over 60 percent of Russians, according to Levada Center, an independent and highly respected polling organization. This might be more inertia and apathy than a conscious political affiliation, but the result is the same. The opposition can only dream about such ratings: Support for the most prominent opposition leader, Aleksei Navalny, doesn’t rise above 20 percent.
The blame for that can’t be placed squarely on the Kremlin. Though the opposition is hampered by a range of state restrictions, the fact remains that opposition rallies do not attract significant numbers of participants.