Eyebrows raised in Moscow as Biden picks notoriously gaff-prone Russia critic Jen Psaki as future White House press secretary
Psaki will join the seven-strong, all-woman communications unit as White House press secretary. She had previously been a spokeswoman for the State Department, where she frequently defended a policy of sanctions and increased diplomatic tensions with Russia. In 2015, she condemned fighting in the east of Ukraine, and claimed "there can also be no mistake about Russia's role in the escalation of violence."
However, Psaki has at times seemed warmer to Russia. At a meeting in Paris, she posed with her then-boss, former secretary of state John Kerry, as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. With her arms around her counterparts, Psaki smiled for the camera, wearing a traditional Russian fur ushanka hat, emblazoned with the Soviet hammer and sickle.
In 2014, RT produced a compilation of purported failures during her time in office, saying that she "seems to be reporters' favorite spokesperson to laugh at." Mis-steps were said to include an implication that Russia imports natural gas from Western Europe, through Ukraine, rather than the other way around, and refusing to take follow-up questions from an RT reporter who had asked about the US' role in violence in the country.
Psaki has also hit back at Russian media, telling the Wall Street Journal that there was "a new form of creativity in terms of their efforts to misconstrue the facts on the ground."
However, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov played down the impact Psaki might have on ties with Russia. Speaking to journalists on Monday, he said that it was an internal matter and that it would be Biden’s stance that set the tone for relations. “Foreign policy is formulated by the head of state, at least in our country. And, of course, much of it depends on the US President,” he added.
While the Kremlin has been at pains to avoid being seen to take sides in the US election, and has said it will only congratulate a winner once the result is confirmed by the Electoral College, there are a number of areas where clashes with a Biden administration are possible. An avowed supporter of NATO, Biden has repeatedly positioned Russia as a threat to Europe and America, and Russian President Vladimir Putin noted a "sharp anti-Russia rhetoric" during his campaign.
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