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Like The Rest Of The World, Russia Waits For Trump-Biden Outcome

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Four years ago, people in Russia celebrated when Donald Trump won the presidency. Many expected an improvement in relations with the U.S. Now the mood in Russia is more resigned. Here's NPR's Lucian Kim.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: Before Election Day in the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would work with whichever candidate the American people choose. Since then, Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, has not said much.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DMITRY PESKOV: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: "So far, we have no comment," he told reporters Thursday. "Unfortunately," he said, "everything related to Russia in America is like a red flag to a bull." But that's not to say the post-election confusion hasn't been getting its share of news coverage here.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: State television shows a clear bias toward President Trump, taking at face value his accusations of mass fraud and reporting falsely that his challenger, Joe Biden, declared victory. Russian politicians are finding an opportunity to bash America. Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Russian senate's foreign relations committee, talked to a Moscow radio station.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KONSTANTIN KOSACHEV: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: "The supposedly great American political system has come up with two men in their 70s as the best possible candidates," he said, "and I fear for the American nation."

Political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya says gloating may provide temporary gratification to politicians fed up with American criticism of Russian elections.

TATIANA STANOVAYA: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: "But Russia is also getting tired of chaos in the United States," she says. "On the one hand, a weakened America is unlikely to pressure Putin. But on the other hand, it prevents the Kremlin from pursuing strategic goals and makes a constructive relationship with the U.S. impossible."

Stanovaya says the Kremlin is watching the election results calmly.

STANOVAYA: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: "When Trump came into office, there was a certain euphoria," she says. "It was like going to the casino with a bag of cash and hopes of hitting the jackpot."

Now, after bilateral relations have only worsened under Trump, that euphoria has given way to disappointment.

STANOVAYA: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: "At least a Biden administration would be more predictable," Stanovaya says, "and is expected to have a more professional team for dealing with Russia."

Still, the consensus in Moscow is relations will not improve dramatically.

FYODOR LUKYANOV: In general, I don't think that we can expect really big differences vis-a-vis Russia.

KIM: That's Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of Russia in Global Affairs.

LUKYANOV: Conceptually, of course, the difference might be that a Biden administration can revitalize the agenda largely abandoned by Donald Trump about freedom, democracy and human rights worldwide.

KIM: At the same time, Biden may have more leeway to start talking with the Kremlin because no one can accuse him of being Putin's puppet. A first step may be the extension of the New START arms control treaty, which expires a couple of weeks after Inauguration Day in January.

LUKYANOV: For Biden, it's a good way to demonstrate immediately how much he cares about global stability and will restore what Trump destroyed.

KIM: But Lukyanov warns that saving an arms control agreement, though positive, will not be enough to fundamentally change U.S.-Russian relations.

Lucian Kim, NPR News, Moscow.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCIN PATRZALEK'S "TOXICITY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.