Russia sees US at ‘rock bottom’ as allies condemn Washington violence

Moscow lambasts ‘archaic’ American democracy while Merkel ‘furious’ at scenes

In a reversal of roles that many Russian politicians surely relished, Moscow decried the state of American democracy and urged the US to overhaul its "archaic" electoral system after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington.

Allies of Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has dismantled much of his own country's fragile democracy during two decades in power, said the US could no longer lecture other nations on the health of their political systems or rule of law.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the US electoral process was "archaic, doesn't meet modern democratic standards, is open to numerous violations, and the US media have become a tool in the political fight".

“We hope the friendly American people get through this dramatic moment in their history with dignity,” she added.


Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, said it was time to "re-evaluate the standards promoted by the US" and declared that recent events made it "pointless to refer to [the US] as a model of democracy".

Two-party US politics “is not just closed, but it has stagnated for about 70 years”, Mr Volodin said, arguing that behind the electoral college system lay “a small circle of the political elite that imitates political competition”.

After Wednesday’s fatal clashes at the Capitol, he urged the US to “solve its own domestic political problems and start to build a policy based on non-interference in the affairs of other sovereign states”.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Russia's upper house of parliament, said the US was now "limping on both legs".

“This is clearly rock bottom, and I say that without any hint of gloating. America no longer charts the course and so has lost all right to set it, let alone to impose it on others.”

Merkel ‘saddened’

German chancellor Angela Merkel expressed horror and hope at the US Capitol riot that left her “furious and saddened”, echoing reaction of leaders across the continent.

Breaking with her traditional restraint, the chancellor expressed “deep regret” at President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede defeat in the presidential election.

“That prepared the atmosphere in which such events, such violent events, are possible,” she said.

The German leader had a chilly relationship with Mr Trump, who took regular swipes at the chancellor after she offered him conditional co-operation, based on the principles of “freedom [and] the respect for the law and human dignity”.

For her senior officials, the only consolation of the Trump era is that the German-American president never made a visit to his grandfather’s birthplace in Kallstadt, an hour’s drive south of Frankfurt.

Ending her relationship with Mr Trump on Wednesday, Dr Merkel looked forward to a “new chapter” with the Biden administration, proving that “the forces of democracy have prevailed – something I always knew – and expected – of the United States”.

French president Emmanuel Macron insisted the images from Washington were “definitely not America”.

“We believe in the strength of our democracies,” he said, “we believe in the strength of American democracy.”

Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte, who is closer to Mr Trump than many of his European colleagues, also expressed confidence in the US institutions.

“Violence is incompatible with the exercise of democratic rights and freedoms,” he wrote on Twitter.

Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez said the attacks “only succeeded in reaffirming the principles we share” and offered the Biden administration Madrid’s co-operation to build “a more just world and the triumph of democracy over extremism”.

Reichstag mob

In Germany the images from Washington sparked a familiar unease. Six months ago, on the fringes of a protest march over Covid-19 restrictions, a mob rushed the steps of the Reichstag building and attempted to storm Germany’s seat of parliament – images that went round the world.

On Wednesday Bundestag president Wolfgang Schäuble ordered his second security review in six months and, in a letter to House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, condemned the violence of a mob stirred up by a president “who disdains the basic rule of democracy and admit his obvious defeat”.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas recalled the August Reichstag stand-off on Twitter as he watched footage from the US Capitol, adding that “the enemies of democracy will be happy to see these incredible images”.

Several Russian politicians compared the violence in Washington to the 2014 uprising in Ukraine that prompted the country's then leader to flee to Moscow, in what the Kremlin regarded as a US-backed coup.

Ukraine's pro-western president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said: "We strongly condemn the unprecedented violence against the US congress. We are inspired by the resilience of this world's oldest and greatest democratic institution that within mere hours of this horrific attack . . . affirmed the will of the American people," by confirming Joe Biden's election victory.

Poland's right-wing president Andrzej Duda, an ally of Mr Trump, said "the Washington events are an internal matter for the US, which is a democratic state of the rule of law . . . Poland believes in the power of American democracy."

Czech prime minister Andrej Babis said the violence in Washington was "unacceptable". The billionaire tycoon – sometimes dubbed the "Czech Trump" – also removed a photo from his social media profile in which he sported a red "Strong Czechia" cap inspired by Mr Trump's "Make America Great Again" merchandise.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin