CNN reporter: Here’s why the presidential debate was a big win for Putin

CNN reporter: Here's why the presidential debate was a big win for Putin

CNN‘s Fareed Zakaria, in his post-debate analysis, argues that the recent Presidential Debate was a significant victory for Putin. The Russian President, he asserts, “could not have asked for a better performance from the American President and Vice-President.” Zakaria’s argument is based on several factors.

Amplification of Division

First, the debate served to amplify divisions within America

between Democrats and Republicans,

as both sides accused each other of poor debate performance, untruths, and unsportsmanlike conduct. Putin’s goal has always been to sow discord among the American populace.

Misinformation Campaign

Second, Putin’s misinformation campaign

(including the infamous Biden-Ukraine story) and the recent New York Post emails),

gained considerable attention during and after the debate, with many prominent Americans (including the President himself) repeating or endorsing false claims. Putin’s objective is to create a smokescreen of confusion and discredit the democratic process.

Diverting Attention from Real Issues

Lastly, the debate enabled Putin to divert international attention from real issues

(like the ongoing Belarus crisis and the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny)

by focusing on the debate’s controversy. This strategy, in turn, weakens America’s influence on global matters and strengthens Putin’s hand.


The 2020 US Presidential Debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, which took place on September 29, 2020, at the Fort Dearborn Police Academy in Chicago, Illinois, was a highly anticipated event. The debate was the first of three scheduled meetings between the two candidates, each aiming to convince undecided voters why they were the best choice to lead the country. However, an unexpected figure managed to steal the spotlight – none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Recap of the Debate

A brief recap: The debate was moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News and covered various topics, including the economy, COVID-19 response, climate change, and racial injustice. Both candidates engaged in heated exchanges, with Trump refusing to condemn white supremacist groups and questioning Biden’s intelligence. Meanwhile, Biden accused Trump of failing to provide adequate leadership during the pandemic and called for unity and empathy.

The Role of Putin

Unexpected winner: During the debate, it was apparent that neither candidate could effectively outshine each other. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was watching the debate from Moscow, seemed to have emerged as the unintended winner of the night.

Media Attention

The media coverage following the debate focused heavily on Putin’s potential influence over the event. According to reports, during the debate, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, made several comments on the debate, adding fuel to speculation that Putin had orchestrated the chaos. Furthermore, social media platforms were filled with discussions about Putin’s possible role in the debacle.

Geopolitical Implications

The debate’s aftermath revealed geopolitical implications, as Putin’s involvement became a topic of concern for US foreign policy experts. Some believed that Russia could use the chaos as an opportunity to further interfere in US politics, potentially influencing the outcome of the election.

Background: US-Russia Tensions and the 2016 Election Interference

Under the Trump administration, US-Russia relations reached new lows, marked by a complex interplay of political maneuvers and allegations of interference.

Recap of the tensions between the United States and Russia

President Trump’s policy towards Russia was characterized by a lack of criticism and a willingness to engage with President Putin, despite concerns from the intelligence community and allies. Trump’s controversial decisions, such as the withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), were met with skepticism and criticism both domestically and internationally. The withdrawal from NATO was also seen as a sign of US disengagement from traditional European alliances, potentially leaving an opening for Russia to expand its influence.

Controversy surrounding the 2016 election interference allegations

However, it was not just Trump’s policy towards Russia that raised concerns. The 2016 election interference allegations, which emerged during the investigation led by then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller, cast a shadow over US-Russia relations. The allegations claimed that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election by hacking Democratic National Committee emails and spreading disinformation through social media. While the Mueller Report did not find that the Trump campaign had conspired with Russia, it did establish that there were numerous contacts between the two sides.

Putin’s use of past US elections and potential goals in 2020

Looking back, it is clear that Russia’s involvement in US elections goes beyond the 2016 election. As early as 2014, Putin was reportedly considering how to use social media to influence US public opinion. In 2016, Russia’s disinformation campaign targeted key swing states and issues, including gun rights, immigration, and race relations. By creating chaos and sowing discord, Putin hoped to undermine the credibility of American democracy and weaken US leadership on the global stage.

What Putin might have hoped for in 2020

In the 2020 election, Putin likely had similar goals. With Trump’s unconventional approach to diplomacy and his often-friendly rhetoric towards Russia, some speculated that Putin might prefer a second Trump term. However, Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn weakened his position domestically. This made him a less appealing candidate for Putin, who may have seen an opportunity to further destabilize US democracy by supporting Biden’s opponents or spreading disinformation about the former Vice President.

CNN reporter: Here

I The Debate’s Impact on Putin’s Agenda

Issues Benefiting Russia:

During the chaotic Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, several issues emerged that could potentially benefit Russia. One such issue is the US-China relations, with Trump’s critical comments towards China on trade and its handling of the COVID-19 response. This rhetoric may create an opportunity for Putin to present Russia as a more stable alternative to both superpowers. Another issue is military spending and NATO, with Trump’s comments on potential US military withdrawals from foreign bases, which could weaken the Western alliance and potentially benefit Russia. Surprisingly absent was any significant discussion on climate change policy, creating a potential vacuum for inaction that Putin might exploit.

Capitalizing on Distraction:

Putin could capitalize on the debate’s chaos and negative attention to further his own agenda. He might launch cyber-attacks on US infrastructure, as seen in the past, or stage provocative actions, such as military maneuvers near NATO borders. These moves could create a sense of instability and divert attention from domestic issues in the US, allowing Putin to strengthen his position on the global stage.

Undermining Biden’s Credibility:

The debate also presented an opportunity for Russia to undermine Joe Biden’s credibility and sway voters in favor of Trump. Using its vast disinformation networks, Russia could spread false narratives about controversial moments from the debate or amplify moments that put Biden in a negative light. With social media algorithms often favoring extreme content, these efforts could reach a large audience and potentially sway undecided voters.

CNN reporter: Here

The Debate’s Impact on US-Russia Relations and Diplomacy

Discussing the Potential Impacts on Future Diplomatic Efforts between the US and Russia:

  1. Potential for increased tensions: The heated rhetoric exchanged during the debate between President Trump and Vice President Biden regarding Russia could lead to further strained relations between the two countries. This escalating verbal warfare could potentially result in increased tensions and a deterioration of diplomacy, making future dialogue more difficult.
  2. Possible opportunities for dialogue: On the other hand, if the chaos surrounding the debate subsides or if a new administration takes office, there could be opportunities for diplomatic engagement between the US and Russia. A renewed focus on dialogue may help to mitigate some of the tensions that have arisen, allowing both countries to work together on areas of mutual interest.

Exploring the Potential Consequences of the Debate for US-Russia Relations:

  1. Further deterioration in diplomacy and cooperation: The contentious exchanges during the debate could result in further deterioration in US-Russia relations. This could lead to increased sanctions against Russia, military posturing, and a breakdown of diplomatic channels. In turn, these actions could provoke a more aggressive response from Russia, potentially leading to an escalating cycle of conflict.
  2. Renewed calls for a more concerted US effort to counter Russian influence and cyber-attacks: The debate also served as a reminder of the ongoing geopolitical tensions between the US and Russia. In light of this, there may be renewed calls for a more concerted US effort to counter Russian influence and cyber-attacks, particularly in relation to the upcoming US presidential election. This could result in increased resources being allocated to this area, potentially leading to a more robust US response to Russian actions.

CNN reporter: Here


In the aftermath of the Helsinki summit debate between President Trump and Russian President Putin, it is crucial to assess the potential wins for Putin, both in terms of his immediate and long-term objectives. Immediate wins include Putin’s successful portrayal of a calm, collected leader on the world stage, contrasting Trump’s perceived chaos. Additionally, Putin secured a promise from Trump to work together on issues such as Israel and Iran, which could potentially weaken US alliances in the region.

Long-term objectives

Putin’s long-term wins could include sowing further doubt and division in the US political system, as well as weakening the US commitment to NATO and European allies. By denying any interference in the 2016 election, Putin may have furthered his goal of undermining US democratic institutions and sowing distrust between Americans. Moreover, his refusal to acknowledge the use of a nerve agent against a former Russian spy in the UK highlights Putin’s continued disregard for international norms and rules.

Implications for US foreign policy towards Russia

These developments have significant implications for US foreign policy towards Russia moving forward. The lack of a clear, united response from the international community to Putin’s actions may embolden him further, leading to increased aggression towards US allies and interests. The US must reassess its approach to Russia and consider more effective strategies for deterring Putin’s behavior, such as increased economic sanctions or diplomatic pressure.

Encouraging further analysis and debate

The aftermath of the Helsinki summit is a critical moment for international relations and national security experts to engage in further analysis and debate on this issue. Questions remain about the extent of Putin’s influence over Trump, the future of US-Russia relations, and the implications for global security. It is essential that scholars, policymakers, and the media continue to scrutinize these issues and provide informed perspectives on potential solutions.