Russian President Vladimir Putin has attempted to mark a positive resemblance between Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Soviet communists in a wide-ranging interview with the Rossiya TV channel, released Wednesday as the 2020 vice presidential candidates prepared to debate.
The president said the Kremlin would be open to working with whoever sits in the Oval Office in 2021, despite U.S. intelligence reports indicating that Russia is trying to undermine Biden in the same way it did Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.
But Putin linked Biden to communist ideology during the interview. While Putin—a former party member, KGB colonel and intelligence operative—made the comparison in positive terms, his comment lines up with GOP talking points about the Biden-Kamala Harris ticket. Trump and his allies have tried to frame their opponents proposing a far-left, extremist platform dictated by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
"The Democratic Party is traditionally closer to the so-called liberal values, closer to social democratic ideas," Putin said. "And it was from the social democratic environment that the Communist Party evolved."
"After all, I was a member of the Soviet Communist Party for nearly 20 years" Putin added. "I was a rank-and-file member, but it can be said that I believed in the party's ideas. I still like many of these left-wing values. Equality and fraternity. What is bad about them? In fact, they are akin to Christian values."
"Yes, they are difficult to implement, but they are very attractive, nevertheless. In other words, this can be seen as an ideological basis for developing contacts with the Democratic representative."
Putin also reminisced on the Soviet Union's rhetorical support for African-American civil rights struggle. American racial inequality will play a central role in the coming election. Trump has been widely criticized for dismissing the concerns of Black voters and tacitly endorsing violent white supremacist groups.
Trump and his allies have tried to characterize the Black Lives Matter movement, for example, as an extremist and even terrorist organization.
Putin said Black Americans "constitute a stable electorate" in favor of the Democrats. "The Soviet Union also supported the African Americans' movement for their legitimate rights," he said.
"Back in the 1930s, Communist International leaders wrote that both black and white workers had a common enemy–imperialism and capitalism. They also wrote that these people could become the most effective group in the future revolutionary battle."
"So, this is something that can be seen, to a degree, as common values, if not a unifying agent for us," Putin said. "People of my generation remember a time when huge portraits of Angela Davis, a member of the U.S. Communist Party and an ardent fighter for the rights of African Americans, were on view around the Soviet Union."
FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed in September that Russia is spreading disinformation to "denigrate" Biden ahead of the election. American intelligence agencies and lawmakers—including a Republican-led Senate committee—have confirmed extensive contact between Trump's 2016 campaign and Moscow, including multiple individuals linked to Russian intelligence.
Trump and Putin have repeatedly dismissed such reports—the former branding them "fake news"—as an effort to undermine Trump's presidency and damage ties between Washington, D.C. and Moscow.
Putin also pointed out to Rossiya a specific arena where he would be ready to work with a Biden administration, despite the former vice president vowing to address Russian meddling and aggressive foreign policy—promises Putin described as "sharp anti-Russia rhetoric."
"Candidate Biden has said openly that he was ready to extend the New START or to sign a new strategic offensive reductions treaty," Putin said, referring to the landmark nuclear arms control accord that is due to lapse next year. "This is already a very significant element of our potential future cooperation." The Trump administration has thus far refused offers to extend the deal, saying it wants China included in any new nuclear arms deals.
"I would like to repeat what I have said more than once before. We will work with any future president of the United States, the one whom the American people give their vote of confidence," Putin said.