MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his victory in the U.S. Presidential election, ending weeks of Russian officials casting doubt on the outcome of the vote and entertaining the notion that Donald Trump could overturn the results in court.
The Russian president sent Biden a “congratulatory telegram” that wished the incoming U.S. president well and said he hoped the two could forge a successful working relationship, according to a statement on the Kremlin’s website.
“Russian-American cooperation based on principles of equality and mutual respect would be in the interest of the peoples of both countries and the entire international community,” the statement said.
While many world leaders moved quickly to congratulate Biden on his victory last month, Putin was among the most significant holdouts. Moscow has spent the past month saying that it would be improper to congratulate a winner before an official result had been certified. During this time, Russian state media has regurgitated and amplified Trump’s baseless claims.
Trump has publicly tried to undermine the integrity of the election, but failed in his legal bid to overturn the results and stay in power. He has vowed to continue his election fight even after the Electoral College’s meeting to cement Biden’s win.
This was a very different attitude than Russia has shown previously toward the U.S. election process. In 2016, Putin was among the first world leaders to Trump on his victory. Officials from Putin on down have said the difference this year was that the incumbent was pursuing legal challenges, whereas previously one candidate has conceded.
Putin’s move to finally recognize Biden’s win as official came after Monday’s meeting of the Electoral College, which formalized Biden’s win with 306 electoral votes.
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Moscow was enthusiastic about Trump’s victory in 2016, seeing him as a potential friend to Russia. But that welcome quickly faded, as the Trump administration continued to enact additional sanctions against Russia and unilaterally withdrew from arms control agreements with Russia — pacts that seen in Moscow as a pillar of the relationship with the U.S.
Though deeply disappointed with Trump by the end of his term, Biden is not seen by the Kremlin as a potential friend — rather, the expectation is that Biden will be tough on Russia. However, Moscow is hoping that the Biden administration will be more constructive on nuclear arms control dialogue than its predecessor.