Moscow Expects Biden to Follow Trump's Russia Policy, Says U.S. Is 'Deeply Split'

Russia's top diplomat has characterized the U.S. as "deeply split" in the aftermath of last week's contentious presidential election, but said he expects President-elect Joe Biden to change little in the White House's Moscow strategy.

Russia is tightly bound to President Donald Trump's political career, having meddled in the 2016 presidential election to undermine his opponent Hillary Clinton. Allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin have loomed over Trump's time in office, magnified by the president's apparent personal affinity for President Vladimir Putin.

Biden has characterized Russia as the greatest international threat to the U.S., and repeatedly admonished Trump for being too soft on Putin. Biden and his foreign policy team are set to revitalize ties with America's European allies following four years of tense Trumpian diplomacy, which any observers said played into Putin's hands.

According to Russia's state-backed Tass news agency, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday: "As for the Russian track, frankly speaking, our political scientists (and I agree with them in general) don't expect any revolutionary changes" in American policy towards Russia.

Still, he added: "It's not a very good idea to make any forecasts at this stage."

Lavrov added that the U.S. "is deeply split," noting: "It will be regrettable if they try to reunite America as a nation on such Russophobe basis...We'll see." Russian diplomats regularly claim Russophobia as the motive behind American and Western pressure on Moscow.

Trump has been warm to Putin, but his administration has not entirely gone along with Russia's foreign policy. Trump's administration has placed new sanctions on Moscow; pressured Berlin over its Nord Stream 2 Russian natural gas pipeline project; refused to extend bilateral arms control deals with the Kremlin; and pushed back against Russian influence and allies in Syria.

For all his criticism of NATO, Trump has also expanded American support for the alliance and pressed allies to do the same. The administration also increased American support for the Ukrainian government—which remains at war with Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country—though this became tangled in Trump's impeachment.

Biden's administration is likely to press ahead on all these fronts, perhaps with the exception of nuclear arms control. His administration will also look to punish Russia for covert operations abroad and contain Moscow's efforts to displace American influence in the Middle East and Europe.

Putin has yet to congratulate Biden on his electoral victory. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told the media this week that Putin will not do so until all legal challenges against his victory have been resolved.

Sergei Lavrov, Joe Biden, Russia, 2020 election
People walk along the Red Square in downtown Moscow, Russia on October 18, 2020. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images/Getty