2024 Elections

Putin says Russia prefers Biden to Trump but criticizes current US policy

President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would prefer to see U.S. President Joe Biden win a second term, describing him as more experienced and predictable than Donald Trump — even though Moscow strongly disagrees with the current administration’s policies.

Putin’s comments during an interview with Russian state television Wednesday were his first about the upcoming U.S. presidential election, likely to pit Biden against Trump. They were rare praise for Biden, a fierce critic of the Russian leader who has frequently lauded Trump.

“Biden, he’s more experienced, more predictable, he’s a politician of the old formation,” Putin said, when asked which candidate would be better for Russia. “But we will work with any U.S. leader whom the American people trust.”

Putin’s motives for saying Biden is a better choice for Russia were unclear, but the assertion was eyebrow-raising given prior U.S. government assessments of the Russian leader’s support for Trump and of Kremlin efforts to tip American elections in his favor.

The apparent endorsement was not welcomed by the White House. Asked during a briefing on Thursday about Putin’s remarks, national security spokesman John Kirby responded, “I think Mr. Putin knows very well what this administration has been doing to counter Russia’s malign influence around the world.”

“Mr. Putin should just stay out of our elections,” Kriby added.

Trump, by contrast, immediately hailed the statement at a campaign rally Wednesday night, calling it a “great compliment” to him.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Putin ordered a hidden campaign to influence the 2016 race in favor of Trump over Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton, with Russian operatives hacking Democratic emails and facilitating their release in the run-up to the election. More recently, intelligence agencies concluded that Putin had authorized influence operations in the 2020 election aimed at denigrating Biden, boosting Trump, undermining confidence in the vote and exacerbating social divisions in the U.S.

Trump and Putin, who have frequently praised each other in the past, have dismissed such findings.

Putin did also blast the White House’s policy toward Russia, describing it as “badly flawed and wrong.”

The remarks come at time of heightened tension between Russia and the West — and deep disagreements in the U.S. about how best to counter Russia and help Ukraine.

Putin has claimed that he sent troops into Ukraine to protect Russian speakers there and to prevent a threat to Russia’s security posed by Ukraine’s bid to join the NATO alliance. Ukraine and its Western allies have denounced Moscow’s action as an unprovoked act of aggression. Several NATO countries, chief among them the U.S. under Biden’s leadership, have sent Kyiv weapons and other military aid to fend off Russian forces.

Trump, meanwhile, recently called into question U.S. funding for Ukraine and said he once warned he would allow Russia to do whatever it wants to NATO member nations that are “delinquent” in investing in their own defense. Those comments sent shock waves through Europe, where some leaders are preparing for a time when the U.S. does not play the pivotal role in NATO that it does now.

Trump’s statement sharply contrasted with Biden’s pledge “to defend every inch of NATO territory.” Biden accused Trump on Tuesday of having “bowed down to a Russian dictator.”

In the interview, Putin noted that Trumps’ view of relations with NATO’s allies is consistent with his approach during his presidency, even though the Europeans sharply disagree.

The Russian leader described NATO as a “U.S. foreign policy tool,” adding that “if the U.S. thinks that it no longer needs this tool it’s up to it to decide.”

Asked about speculation on Biden’s health issues, Putin responded that “I’m not a doctor and I don’t consider it proper to comment on that.” He added that Biden seemed in fine shape when the two leaders met in Switzerland in June 2021.

Biden’s team has worked to alleviate Democratic concerns over alarms raised by a special counsel about Biden’s age and memory. They came in a report determining that Biden would not be charged with any criminal activity for possessing classified documents while a private citizen.

Asked about his impressions from his last week’s interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Putin said he expected Carlson to be more aggressive. Putin used the interview to push his narrative on the fighting in Ukraine, urge Washington to recognize Moscow’s interests and press Kyiv to sit down for talks.

Carlson didn’t ask Putin about war crimes Russian troops have been accused of in Ukraine, or about his relentless crackdown on dissent.

“I expected him to be aggressive and ask the so-called tough questions, and I wasn’t only ready for it but wanted it because it would have given me a chance to respond sharply,” Putin said.

___

Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed from Washington.

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Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP

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