Russian President Vladimir Putin has revealed that he is not ready to recognize Joe Biden as the winner of the US presidential election because Donald Trump has not acknowledged the Democrat's victory.
Biden was announced president-elect two weeks ago in the election against Trump, who has refused to concede. The president has alleged voter fraud and has ordered his team to contest the votes in key states that cost him reelection.
Putin, who has yet to congratulate Biden on his victory, said Sunday on Russian state TV: 'We will work with anyone who has the confidence of the American people.'
'But that confidence can only be given to a candidate whose victory has been recognized by the opposing party, or after the results are confirmed in a legitimate, legal way,' Putin said, according to Bloomberg.
Putin said that the decision to not congratulate Biden is 'a formality' with no ulterior motives.
He also said that he believes relations between the US and Russia have been 'ruined'.
When Trump won in 2016, Putin was prompt in offering congratulations — but Trump's challenger in that election, Hillary Clinton, also conceded the day after the vote.
Just days after the election was called in Biden's favor, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that this election is different.
'Obviously, you can see that certain legal procedures are coming there, which were announced by the incumbent president — therefore this situation is different, so we consider it correct to wait for the official announcement,' he said.
Peskov suggested that when the time comes, a congratulatory message from Putin would come with all the expected protocol.
'I remind you that Vladimir Putin said more than once that he will respect any choice of American people, and will be ready to work with any chosen president of the United States,' he said.
For now, Putin's holding back allows a delay in addressing that fraught question of how to improve relations.
Although Russian politicians widely lauded Trump's election in 2016, expecting him to make good on his promises of improving ties, his administration disappointed Moscow by enacting sanctions, expelling scores of Russian diplomats in the wake of the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK, and authorizing lethal weapons sales to Ukraine.
But Russia is characteristically wary of Democratic US administrations because they tend to be more forward about criticizing Russia on human rights and democracy issues.
Biden, in a 2011 trip to Russia as vice president, epitomized that approach in a speech at Moscow Statue University, the country's most prestigious higher education institution.
'Don't compromise on the basic elements of democracy. You need not make that Faustian bargain,' he told students.
Biden also is tainted in Russia's eyes by having been the Obama administration's point-man in Ukraine after the uprising that drove the country's Kremlin-friendly president from power in 2014. Russia contended that those protests were fomented by the United States.
Russian officials frequently blamed the difficulties of Moscow-Washington relations during the Trump administration on alleged 'Russophobia' carried over from the Obama years. Some politicians expect that could increase under Biden.
'With the victory of a Democrat, one can expect revenge from all nonconservative forces around the world. This means more Russophobia in Europe, more deaths in (eastern Ukraine) and in many other hot spots of the world, as well as more politically motivated sanctions, if we talk about the direct and simplest consequences,' said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of parliament, whose views generally parallel the Kremlin's.
'The Biden administration may return to a much more assertive policy in the post-Soviet space, which is always extremely unnerving for Moscow,' Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Russia In Global Affairs journal, told the state news agency Tass.
Both, however, noted that a Biden administration is likely to be more amenable to international cooperation, especially in arms control such as renewing the New START treaty between Russia and the US that is to expire next year.
Kosachev also suggested that Biden's election would largely eliminate complaints about Russian election interference, thereby smoothing the way for armaments agreements.
'Not that we believe Washington will be sobering up, but at least a key irritant can go away. Is this not a reason for the resumption of negotiations, for example, on arms control? We are definitely ready,' he said.