Trump often heaps praise on Putin, describing him as a strong and powerful leader — comments that Russian state media uses to portray Putin as a global strongman and Trump as a puppet dancing to his master's tune.
Trump often heaps praise on Putin, describing him as a "strong" and "powerful" leader — comments that Russian state media uses to portray Putin as a global strongman and Trump as a puppet dancing to his master's tune. — Sonam Sheth, Political Correspondent, Business Insider
Vladimir Putin wasted no time in weaponizing Trump's election conspiracies to spread Russian propaganda
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has wasted no time in seizing on US President Donald Trump's conspiracy theories about the 2020 election to boost Russia's strategic goals.
  • In addition to saying he will not congratulate President-elect Joe Biden while claiming the results are not clear, Putin said the "problems in the US electoral system" mean the US doesn't have the right to criticize how other countries run their elections.
  • The remarks are a stark representation of how Trump's unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and election-rigging enabled Putin to use a classic Soviet propaganda tool known as "whataboutism" to undermine US principles about free and fair elections.
  • Trump's attempt to paint the US election as rigged "plays directly into Putin's primary objective, which isn't necessarily to get a specific person elected, but to sow discord and reinforce the view that American democracy doesn't work well," said John McLaughlin, the former acting CIA director.
The Russian leader, who has been in power for two decades and who in July got one step closer to being president for life, has long been criticized by the US for his antidemocratic principles and violent crackdowns on opposing political parties, dissidents, and independent journalists. In retaliation, Putin often employs a classic Soviet propaganda tool known as "whataboutism" to portray the US as being on the same moral plane.

"Whataboutism" serves Putin by allowing him to take the position that it's not America's role to "lecture Russia on democracy when it has had such a poor track record of establishing them on its own watch," Vadim Nikitin, a Russia analyst and freelance journalist, told Insider in a previous interview. Most of all, Putin's finger-pointing at the US' own foibles is part of an effort to force others to "accept all sides as morally flawed," he added.

... The US's electoral turmoil and rocky transition period are "absolutely a welcome distraction" for Putin, McLaughlin said. That's especially true now, given that Putin's approval rating in Russia has been in steady decline and is currently somewhere near 60%, down from where it used to be in the high 80s and 90s. Now, "he can take the heat off of himself by getting us to fight each other after what we would like to think of as one of the safest and fairest elections, but one that the president of the United States is saying is rigged."

Moreover, "Russia has long wanted to revise the international order" that the Obama administration spearheaded, said Michael David-Fox, a professor at Georgetown University and an expert on modern Russia and the USSR. "It is clear to Putin and the Russian foreign policy establishment that the Biden administration represents a return" to that approach.

Obama's administration emphasized a foreign policy that supported an international system governed by independent institutions and global alliances. That system, which the US has spearheaded since the Cold War, frequently stands in opposition to Putin's interests, which are geared toward fracturing western alliances, spreading communism, and bringing sovereign nations like Ukraine back into the Soviet sphere of influence.

Conversely, the Trump administration's foreign policy has yielded huge returns for Russia.

"They want to protect their boy in the White House, because Trump's policies have been strategically fantastic for Russia," Glenn Carle, a former CIA covert operative, told Insider in an earlier interview. "He alienated the United States from NATO and turned a blind eye to Russian influence in Crimea. His actions in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Libya, helped Russia gain a significant presence in the region for the first time in 48 years."

Trump also often heaps praise on Putin, describing him as a "strong" and "powerful" leader — comments that Russian state media uses to portray Putin as a global strongman and Trump as a puppet dancing to his master's tune.