Putin: Not so fast on this "Biden as president" thing

Was Vladimir Putin really pulling for Donald Trump to win a second term in office? Whether you think the Russians were engaging in any online “meddling” in our election or not, the Russian President is certainly acting as if he wasn’t a fan of Joe Biden’s. Putin has yet to send a congratulatory message to Uncle Joe, and when he was asked about the situation on Sunday morning he wasn’t willing to officially recognize Biden as the next president. It wasn’t a total rebuttal of Biden either, however. The reasons he gives for his lack of recognition thus far are actually pretty reasonable if you’re willing to take them at face value. Of course, that’s a pretty big “if.” (Bloomberg)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he’s ready to work with any U.S. leader, but still isn’t ready to recognize the election victory of Joe Biden.

“We will work with anyone who has the confidence of the American people,” Putin said on Russian state TV Sunday. “But that confidence can only be given to a candidate whose victory has been recognized by the opposing party, or after the results are confirmed in a legitimate, legal way.”

The comments are some of the most detailed since the election from Putin, one of a dwindling number of leaders who haven’t recognized Biden as the next U.S. head of state. Russia, accused by U.S. intelligence agencies of intervening in 2016 to help get Trump elected, has been wary of Biden, fearing an increase in sanctions pressure and clashes over human rights.

Why any American president would care whether or not Putin is acting all warm and fuzzy toward them at this point is a mystery. Russia is an adversary, not an ally in everything except our cooperative efforts in outer space. And even that relationship is probably going to be hitting the skids now that Elon Musk is taking astronauts back and forth to the International Space Station on a regular basis.

Putin’s comments delivered a display of conflicting messages, however. He wasn’t talking to the press like he’s Donald Trump’s BFF by any means. During some follow-up questions, a reporter asked Putin if he was worried that a Biden presidency “could damage U.S.-Russia relations,” he gave a rather cryptic response.

There’s nothing to damage,” he said. “They’re already ruined.”

Despite the media’s constant barrage of claims about Donald Trump being beholden to or otherwise under the influence of Russia, Putin is correct. While some observers wish he had done more, Trump has hit various Russians with sanctions and openly battled them for their share of the European oil and gas market. He’s probably held back more than he might have because he’s been working (unsuccessfully) on a new nuclear arms treaty with them.

But if the Russian relationship is “already ruined,” as Putin said, Russia had more to do with its deterioration than we did. They’ve been increasingly siding with nations that are hostile to us like North Korea, Venezuela and Iran. Putin has helped further undermine the west’s relationship with Turkey, though Recip Tayyip Erdogan has been a willing, if not eager participant in that hot mess. Putin has pumped money and military assets into Venezuela to prop up the failing regime of Nicolas Maduro and he’s been helping Kim Jong-un violate international sanctions on his nation for years.

Assuming Joe Biden is sworn in two months from now, Russia will not be on his Christmas card list. But they really aren’t on Trump’s either. So when and if Putin recognizes Biden as the victor shouldn’t factor into our considerations to any great degree.