ReutersMOSCOW (Reuters) — As Russian hopes of a swift detente under U.S. President Donald Trump have fizzled, state media, which hailed his election win, have made a U-turn. On Sunday, they said he was scarier than North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Trump’s decision to launch a missile strike against Syria, a Russian ally, drop a giant bomb on Afghanistan, and stick with Obama-era policies on Crimea, mean Russian hopes of him befriending the Kremlin have been on the slide for a while.
If state TV is a guide, his tough talk on North Korea’s nuclear program and decision to dispatch a naval strike force to the region appear to have buried any Russian hopes that he might intervene less in foreign affairs than his predecessors.
Dmitry Kiselyov, anchor of Russia’s main weekly TV news show “Vesti Nedeli,” on the Rossiya 1 channel, is widely seen as the top pro-Kremlin presenter. He had already began to dial back the Trumpomania and start criticizing the U.S. president.
But on Sunday, his first broadcast since Rex Tillerson’s maiden visit to Moscow as U.S. secretary of state, Kiselyov, who once praised Trump for his “independence” from the U.S. political establishment, removed the proverbial gloves.
“The world is a hair’s breadth from nuclear war,” said Kiselyov. “War can break out as a result of confrontation between two personalities: Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. Both are dangerous, but who is more dangerous? Trump is.”
Kiselyov went on to say Trump was “more impulsive and unpredictable” than the North Korean and to say both men shared some of the same negative traits: “Limited international experience, unpredictability, and a readiness to go to war.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to say whether Kiselyov’s views chimed with the Kremlin’s, but said his opinions weren’t necessarily always interchangeable with the official position. “His position is close, but not every time,” said Peskov.
The fact that Kiselyov is being given free rein to use such tough rhetoric about Trump is nonetheless likely to reflect how deep the Kremlin’s anger runs about what it sees as Trump’s failure to deliver on his pledge of better ties with Moscow.
Speaking in front of a picture of the North Korean leader and military commanders juxtaposed next to Trump’s image, Kiselyov said Kim Jong Un was less scary than the U.S. president because he was ready for talks, had not attacked other countries, and had not sent a naval armada to the U.S. coast.
“He [Kim Jong Un] is after all on his home territory. He doesn’t plan to attack anyone just for the sake of it,” said Kiselyov, who was a cheerleader for state TV’s strong anti-American tone under the Obama administration and once said Moscow could turn the United States into radioactive ash.
Delivering a personal jibe, Kiselyov sarcastically told viewers that the North Korean leader’s young daughter did not, unlike Ivanka Trump, have an office in her father’s official residence.
Other state-controlled and pro-Kremlin media have walked back their initial euphoria for Trump in recent weeks too, but Kiselyov tends to set the tone for everyone else and his intervention is the most robust on Trump yet.
Russians cool on president
Polls suggest state TV’s U-turn over Trump has filtered through to the public, most of whom get their news from TV.
A survey by state pollster VTsIOM showed on Monday that the percentage of Russians who hold a negative view of Trump has jumped to 39 from seven percent in a month, and that feelings of distrust and disappointment towards him have grown too.