The Russian ambassador to the United States has defended President Vladimir Putin’s refusal to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden on his election victory, and has suggested that the Kremlin will not do so until all “legal procedures” have been completed.
Vladimir Putin is the last great world leader who did not congratulate Biden on his victory, which President Donald Trump still fights against in court and in the media.
The Russian officials have denied that there is any ulterior motive behind Putin’s delay in congratulating Biden, who is expected to win 306 votes in the electoral college on December 14 and be sworn in as the next president on January 20.
Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said during a video conference organized by the Brookings Institution on Wednesday that the Russian government was following normal protocol.
“Firstly, I do not work in the Kremlin, I am not in close contact with Mr Putin,” Antonov said. “But of course I am aware of the Russian Federation’s position on this issue. We believe that it is the American people who decide who will govern this country. We will recognize any decision that your people make.”
“As far as I know, we will have to wait [for the end]of some legal proceedings in your country when all official results are announced,” he added. “It goes without saying that after this moment or event, everything will be done in accordance with the state protocol.
Putin said before the election that Russia was open to cooperate with both candidates, although the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election in support of Trump’s campaign is well documented. Secret service officials warned that Moscow intends to do the same in last month’s election.
Trump has repeatedly refused to acknowledge any Russian interference on his behalf, either unilaterally or in direct coordination with his campaign. The former is conclusively proven, the latter is not.
The silence of the Russian ruler has contributed to the suspicion that the Kremlin would have preferred Trump to serve a second term, and fits with Moscow’s long-standing strategy of sowing confusion and mistrust in American democracy.
Trump is resorting to lengthy litigation and conspiracy theories to challenge Biden’s victory, but has said he will leave the White House in January if Biden’s victory is confirmed. The New York Times reported last month that while Trump had privately accepted his defeat, he was still engaged in a performative campaign against the results.
Trump’s legal challenges are failing, and even Attorney General Bill Barr-who has been widely criticized for exercising departmental power on Trump’s behalf-said this week that there was no evidence of significant electoral fraud that affected the results.
The General Services Administration also recognized Biden’s victory and initiated the official transition process by which Trump called on officials to cooperate, even if they publicly challenged the election results.