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by John Helmer, Moscow 

If you think that Popeye beat Bluto because he ate spinach, this US presidential cartoon, I mean  debate, was for you.

That President Joseph Biden, handicapped as he was by Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy body dementia, won the 90-minute television fight with Donald Trump seems so obvious to Russians, they express surprise at  the near-unanimity in the US that the opposite was the outcome.  

While the Russian state propaganda organs are repeating the “Joe Must Go” line — the US-funded Russian opposition media also   — military and intelligence analysts in Moscow are concluding that Biden and Trump proved they are equally dangerous for Russia, but that Trump is now the candidate for much bigger wars in the Middle East and against China. Replacing Biden, Russian sources believe, is now an operation of the Zionist and Taiwan lobbies in Washington.

“The Democratic party elites started to think of ways to get Biden out of the way,” according to one Moscow source. “so sending him into a long debate, so early in the campaign, was exactly meant to achieve this – he will look bad but there is enough time to replace him.  Republicans have always been this racist but Trump says it more plainly.  Biden has always been a wolf in sheep’s clothing but he can no longer find new words to keep up the charade. What is there to see? America has never been weaker. The important thing to see here [Moscow] is the reluctance to drive American imperial power off the cliff.” 

“Despite Biden’s obvious handicap, I thought he won,” adds a second source. “Biden telling Trump ‘you have the morals of an alley cat’, won it as far as I’m concerned. He also called Trump out on the racism and fascism, something Trump had no answer for except to double down. Didn’t anyone notice Trump’s compulsive repetitiveness? He repeated the same lies and aspersions over and over again. He’s more lucid than Biden, but not by much. He’s an ageing, narcissistic, racist crook.”

The Russian sources also believe that support for Trump in Moscow is an oligarch operation with a similar fondness for Israel. That has been the line of Roman Abramovich since his abortive attempts to save himself from sanctions and defeat the Russian Army failed at the beginning of the Special Military Operation in March and April 2022.   

“I believe,” said one source, “ ‘Joe must go’ because he expressed some trepidation regarding Israel. He was set up — the guns were loaded and cocked before the debate even started.”

There were nineteen references in all to Russia in the debate; seventeen to President Vladimir Putin. Leaving aside mentions by the CNN moderators of the debate, Trump referred to Russia fourteen times; Biden none. Trump named Putin seven times, Biden the same number. The Ukraine was named twenty-two times, Vladimir Zelensky twice. NATO was named thirteen times.

Watch the videotape  and read the transcript of the debate here.  

Top: the CNN transcript publication.  
Bottom: RIA Novosti, a state news agency, reported neutrally each of the specific references to Russia and the Ukraine war. Its headline reads: “Ukraine and the prospects of World War. Trump and Biden held a debate”.   TASS, also a state news agency, reported “Trump’s presidential debate win puts final nail in Biden’s political coffin”.  A third state news agency, Sputnik News,  began its coverage by saying: “the Kremlin saw media reports about these debates and will familiarize with them in more detail, the official said, noting that this is an internal matter of the United States.’ ‘We are absolutely not going to evaluate these debates, this is an internal matter of the United States, this is the US election campaign. We have never interfered in United States election campaigns,’ he added.”  Sputnik went on to report American experts and a California psychiatrist claiming a “Biden debacle”.

This count reveals that the war in Europe was significantly more important to both candidates than any other foreign policy issue. Compared to the war in the Ukraine, there were eighteen mentions of Israel; thirteen of Hamas; fourteen of China; six of Iran; one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of President Xi Jinping. North Korean President Kim Jong-Un got three.  

Both Biden and Trump claimed to be tougher and the other weaker in the war against Russia. Said Biden: “we found ourselves in a situation where, if you take a look at what Trump did in Ukraine, he’s – this guy told Ukraine – told Trump, do whatever you want. Do whatever you want. And that’s exactly what Trump did to Putin, encouraged him, do whatever you want. And he went in. And listen to what he said when he went in, he was going to take Kyiv in five days, remember? Because it’s part of the old Soviet Union. That’s what he wanted to re-establish, Kyiv. And he, in fact, didn’t do it at all. He didn’t – wasn’t able to get it done. And they’ve lost over – they’ve lost thousands and thousands of troops, 500,000 troops…If you want a World War Three, let him follow and win, and let Putin say, do what you want to NATO – just do what you want…I can’t think of a single major leader in the world who wouldn’t trade places with what job I’ve done and what they’ve done because we are a powerful nation…right now, we’re needed. We’re needed to protect the world because our own safety is at stake. And again, you  want to have war, just let Putin go ahead and take Kyiv, make sure they move on, see what happens in Poland, Hungary, and other places along that border. Then you have a war.”

Trump: “As far as Russia and Ukraine, if we had a real president, a president that knew – that was respected by Putin, he would have never – he would have never invaded Ukraine. A lot of people are dead right now, much more than people know. You know, they talk about numbers. You can double those numbers, maybe triple those numbers. He did nothing to stop it. In fact, I think he encouraged Russia from going in…Russia – they took a lot of land from Bush. They took a lot of land from Obama and Biden. They took no land, nothing from Trump, nothing. He knew not to do it. He’s not going to play games with me. He knew that. I got along with him very well, but he knew not to play games.”

CNN didn’t ask, and neither man claimed to have an end-of-war outcome except more force from Biden, bribes from Trump.

In a telling detail Trump claimed: “It’s just like when you have a hostage, we always pay $6 billion for a – every time we sees hostage. Now we have a hostage. A Wall Street Journal reporter [Evan Gershkovich], I think a good guy, and he’s over there because Putin is laughing at this guy, probably asking for billions of dollars for the reporter. I will have him out very quickly, as soon as I take office, before I take office. I said by literally as soon as I win the election, I will have that reporter out. He should have had him out a long time ago. But Putin is probably asking for billions and billions of dollars because this guy [Biden] pays it every time. He took nothing from me, but now, he’s [Putin] going to take the whole thing from this man right here.”

CNN asked Trump and Biden: “Russian President Vladimir Putin says he’ll only end this war if Russia keeps the Ukrainian territory it has already claimed and Ukraine abandons its bid to join NATO. Are Putin’s terms acceptable to you?” Both avoided a direct answer.

When CNN repeated the question, Trump replied: “No, they’re not acceptable. No, they’re not acceptable…Every time that Zelensky comes to this country, he walks away with $60 billion. He’s the greatest salesman ever. And I’m not knocking him, I’m not knocking anything. I’m only saying, the money that we’re spending on this war, and we shouldn’t be spending, it should have never happened. I will have that war settled between Putin and Zelensky as president-elect before I take office on January 20th. I’ll have that war settled… I will get it settled and I’ll get it settled fast, before I take office.”

Biden replied: “The fact is that Putin is a war criminal. He’s killed thousands and thousands of people. And he has made one thing clear: He wants to re-establish what was part of the Soviet empire. Not just a piece, he wants all of Ukraine. That’s what he wants. And then do you think he’ll stop there? Do you think he’ll stop when he – if he takes Ukraine? What do you think happens to Poland? What do you think of Belarus? What do you think happens to those NATO countries? And so, if you want a war, you ought to find out what he’s going to do… We give them the weapons, not the money at this point. And our NATO allies have produced as much funding for Ukraine as we have. That’s why it’s – that’s why we’re strong.”

The Trump campaign has released its plan of terms for ending the war in the Ukraine on April 11. Trump repeated lines from the plan that if he had been president, the war would not have occurred. “The United States and its allies should have sent substantial lethal aid to Ukraine in the fall of 2021 to deter a Russian invasion. Instead, as an invasion appeared likely in December 2021, Biden ignored urgent appeals from Zelensky for military aid—especially anti-tank Javelins and anti-air Stingers—and warned Putin that the United States would send lethal aid to Ukraine if Russia invaded. Biden’s message conveyed U.S. weakness to Putin.”  

The briefing papers and crib sheets both candidates had memorized ahead of the debate reflected the latest polling on the war which was available to them. Poll data from a February 2024 survey by the Harris organisation and a Washington think tank funded by George Soros and Charles Koch,    show there is no statistical difference between Democrats and Republicans on war and peace terms, and not enough difference among independents for either Biden or Trump to make a pitch to them.  

Source: https://quincyinst.org/

A few days later in a Gallup poll conducted between March 1 and 17, Democrat voters appeared to be relatively more supportive of doing more to back a Ukrainian victory in the war than Republicans.  

Source: https://news.gallup.com/

Among the terms of the Trump plan noticed in Moscow but ignored in the US, there is a payoff promise – “some limited sanctions relief” — to the Russian oligarchs. Garbling this in the debate, Trump said: “Putin is probably asking for billions and billions of dollars because this guy [Biden] pays it every time.”

Source: https://x.com/bears_with/

In presenting himself as the more effectively violent of the two, Trump reversed the Gaza genocide and used a racist slur against Biden. “Israel is the one. And you [Biden] should them go and let them finish the job. He doesn’t want to do it. He’s become like a Palestinian. But they don’t like him, because he’s a very bad Palestinian. He’s a weak one.”

Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, claimed that Putin slept through the live broadcast of the debate. He did not say Putin has not watched a replay. “I don’t think that you can expect the Russian president to set his alarm, wake up early morning and watch the debate. This isn’t a main event for us.”  

A summary of the mainstream Russian media concluded that Russian officials and analysts saw what they already thought they knew.  “There are several reasons Moscow would prefer a Trump presidency — the Republican candidate has threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO and is skeptical of American aid to Ukraine — and Russian coverage generally maintained a neutral tone toward him [Trump], while being less generous with his opponent [Biden].”  

Vzglyad, the semi-official security platform in Moscow, editorialized with a commentary on Biden’s medical condition,  headlined “Biden confirms Alzheimer’s victory”, with a lengthy analysis of the medical treatments and the conclusion: “this does not mean that he cannot be elected president. Dementia is, again, a long–term disease. The question is when its progress will become impossible to hide or interpret as the malicious machinations of enemies.”   

In a second editorial comment Vzglyad noted: “Why does Russia need a smart president in the United States? Russia needs normal relations with the United States to implement its own, Russian foreign policy strategy. And not a world war of all against all, in which we have serious chances to lose. Some people ask a reasonable question: What is the point for Russia to have an intelligent, strong and capable president at the head of the United States? The answer is not easy. The choice in politics is never black and white. It is hardly beneficial for Russia for the United States to be led by a strong president who has a tough and realistic strategy for the world order and knows how to effectively manage resources.”

By this measure, a Russian source concludes: “everyone in Moscow, including the Kremlin, General Staff, and the oligarchs, thinks the winner of the debate was Russia.”  

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