A professor close to the Kremlin said during a discussion in Washington on Thursday that Russians were laughing at Americans’ hysteria over Russia, echoing President Donald Trump’s tweet this week.
“What is going on in this country, in the media, in Congress is just unthinkable,” Andranik Migranyan, professor of international politics at the government-affiliated Moscow State Institute of International Relations, told a group of foreign policy experts at the Center for the National Interest.
He added that to think the Russians were able to elect their preferred candidate in the United States through a meager social media campaign is the “funniest and most ridiculous thing.”
“Until recently we were considered to be an economy in tatters,” he said in a mocking tone. But now, he said, “Russian people at large are amazed at how great is Russia.”
“Russia is most important factor [sic] in world politics!” he said, joking that Russia went from a country that nobody cared about to the “most important” and “most scary” in the world.
“This created a sense in Russia that we are really a great country … [that] our leader can fix anything in the world,” he said. He said he was speaking based on observations on Russian talk shows, online, and on the streets.
Many foreign policy and Russia experts view Migranyan as a propagandist for Russian President Vladimir Putin and say anything he says should not be taken seriously. Still, his appearance at a respected think-tank in Washington was an opportunity to hear how the Kremlin is reacting to current American political affairs.
Whether purposely or not, his comments echoed those of President Trump’s, who tweeted Wednesday that Russia and the world “is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing.”
“The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues. There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes. Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing. Republicans should finally take control!” he tweeted.
The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues. There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes. Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing. Republicans should finally take control!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2018
U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 presidential elections by hacking into the email servers for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and a top Hillary Clinton aide and publishing them via WikiLeaks and DC Leaks, to hurt Clinton and help Trump.
Moscow is also accused of running a $100,000 social media campaign to elect Trump, although some of the advertisements have been mocked as ridiculous, and the campaign reportedly sought to promote the Black Lives Matter campaign too. Putin has denied he was behind any meddling.
Trump has been accused by his political enemies of colluding with Russia during the campaign. So far, despite a year-long FBI investigation, the convening of a special counsel, and three congressional probes, no direct evidence has been found to corroborate that claim. Trump has said Russia was “probably” behind the hacking but has denied ever colluding.
Migranyan was asked during the discussion by retired senior CIA official Paul Pillar whether the hacking operation was an official or a semi-official Russian operation and whether Russians saw it as retaliation for U.S. interference in Russian elections in the past.
“It’s a temptation to say ‘all together,'” Migranyan responded.
Migranyan recalled when he was on the presidential staff for the re-election of Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Time Magazine wrote about a small group of Americans in Moscow who were trying to influence the elections. There was no Russian investigation group or attorney general, he said.
“Everybody was thinking it was quite normal,” he said.
He also explained why Russia supported Trump’s election in the first place. He said, in the beginning, no one in Russia was thinking Trump was a genius “except for Trump.” However, when Trump starting talking about improving relations with Russia, it represented a new and revolutionary approach to foreign policy, he said.
But now, he lamented, cooperating with Russia has become so toxic that the president’s hands are tied.
It is impossible “if your president is afraid to be together with Putin for half an hour because everyone is afraid that he can be recruited as a KGB agent after that,” he said, to some laughter in the room.
Migranyan said Russians now wonder who is in charge in Washington, and he slammed members of Congress.
“They don’t know with whom they can cut a deal. Who is in charge? Congress? White House? Who is making the decisions?” he said.
Migranyan said he read Fire and Fury, the recently published controversial book about Trump’s administration. He said one of the main themes highlighted in the book is that “Trump is a child.”
“We are getting an impression that all these politicians are just children and doing childish things – fooling each other and fooling the public at large … This great country doesn’t deserve this circus,” he said.
He also called it ridiculous that Americans believed that the Russian government wanted to deliver dirt to the Trump campaign on Clinton through a Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, saying that was not necessary.
“Everybody has dirt on Hillary!” he exclaimed, to chuckling in the room. “I can’t believe that somebody is taking seriously this kind of thing. I don’t want to be insulting.”