Russia Warns U.S. Politicians Against Blaming It for Anything During 2020 Race

A senior Russian diplomat has sent a pre-emptive warning to U.S. lawmakers ahead of the 2020 presidential election, suggesting that repeated allegations of Kremlin meddling could seriously damage relations between the two countries.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov suggested that accusations of Russian meddling in past American elections are baseless, despite ample evidence uncovered by investigators to the contrary.

Ryabkov made his remarks while addressing the International Valdai Discussion Club, state news agency Tass reported. The organization was established to "promote dialogue between Russian and international intellectual elite," according to its website.

Ryabkov told attendees that the "overall situation around Russia—the relations of Russia with the U.S.—are not improving."

Russia represents a major issue for politicians and voters turning the 2020 election. Under President Vladimir Putin, the resurgent nation poses a significant risk to U.S. national security. In the traditional sense, Russia has acted aggressively against neighbors and U.S. allies while expanding its armed forces, regardless of arms limitations agreements.

But Russia has also engaged in significant cyber warfare and disinformation programs, seeking to disrupt democratic processes in western nations and around the world. This is particularly concerning given the apparent ambivalence of the Republican Party and President Donald Trump to such behavior.

"The United States has stepped into the election campaign period now, it is already up and running," Raybkov noted. "Considering the dominant anti-Russia sentiments of the elites, and particularly on Capitol Hill, we cannot expect that a more favorable background can be formed to implement the tasks set out by the presidents," he said.

The Kremlin has rejected accusations that it ran disinformation and hacking campaigns to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and attempted to do the same during the 2018 midterms.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller led an investigation into alleged Russian meddling, concluding that the Kremlin directed "sweeping and systematic" attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 race. Mueller and his team ultimately indicted 34 people and three Russian businesses. Charges ranged from computer hacking to conspiracy and financial crimes.

Despite mountains of evidence, Ryabkov stuck stubbornly to the Kremlin—and often White House—line. He said he hoped relations between the two nations would eventually be unaffected by "completely artificially made up, manufactured and fabricated facts."

Trump and Putin certainly seemed to be getting along well as the recent G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. During a press conference, a reporter asked Trump if he would ask his Russian counterpart not to meddle in the 2020 election.

"Of course I will," Trump responded. He turned to Putin and pointed at him, saying, "Don't meddle in the election, please. Don't meddle in the election," as the Russian president laughed.

The two men also bonded over their mutual dislike of the free press. When discussing the media, Trump declared, "Get rid of them...Fake news is a great term, isn't it? You don't have this problem in Russia, but we do." His Russian counterpart smirked and replied in English, "We also have...It's the same."

Russia, Vladimir Putin, 2020 election, meddling
This file photo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking at a meeting of State Council at the Grand Kremlin Palace, in Moscow, Russia on June 26. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty