What Good Is Trump to Russia?

On election night, RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan posted a memorial for democracy on Twitter (“Democracy R.I.P.”), believing that Hillary Clinton would win the U.S. election. But following the news of Donald Trump’s victory, she wrote that she owed someone two cases of beer, withdrew the post and made it “Establishment R.I.P.”

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, also said on Wednesday that he didn’t believe Trump would win because he went against the system. “The Americans have taught me that the system there is always stronger,” Kosachev wrote on Facebook. “And that’s the big sensation of the election: the system has been unable to cope with new, unconventional challenges in its own country.”

Kremlin sources interviewed by Bloomberg also confessed that they didn’t expect Trump’s election victory. The system should always win, and if it loses, then what kind of a system is it? I’m certain that Clinton’s defeat disappointed not just American liberals but Russian conservatives as well.

Duma deputies may applaud the results of the American election. However, people close to the Kremlin can’t help but understand that the pre-election story is one thing, while post-election contact with a country led by an unpredictable businessman for whom any commitment is only an excuse to begin negotiations is another matter altogether.

Trump was very interesting to Russian state media as material for positional play and as an excuse to talk about fraud in U.S. elections. Playing off this theme was probably the default scenario. A loser Trump and his ensuing protest might have been a symmetrical response to Clinton’s remark — which Vladimir Putin remembers well — directed at Russia’s 2011 parliamentary elections (Clinton said then that the elections were “not free or fair.”*) The Russian media were supposed to defend a Trump who had lost and promise him Russian citizenship, but for some reason he won the election.

But that’s not so bad either. Without a doubt, the protests of America’s liberal-minded public will also receive vivid coverage on Russian TV—it’s already begun. After all, what matters isn’t the figures themselves or their party affiliation, but rather the explosive risk they pose to American policy and relations between the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

Yet if one moves away from the media’s reality to everyday reality, in some ways things might turn out to be easier with Trump as president, in other ways, they might be more difficult. Will he accept and simply recognize Crimea, lift sanctions, give up on complaints about Bashar Assad, end the persecution of Julian Assange (will this addendum to the Russia-US contract be taken directly from Simonyan’s Twitter feed?), and open major lines of credit, too? Unlike Clinton, he’ll probably be prepared to discuss these issues, at least in principle. But since he’s a businessman, he’ll understand that the opposing party needs these things most and that it’s necessary to ask the highest possible price for them. The interaction might turn out to be something like it is with China, where, after a falling out with the West, we pinned our hopes to the country but were later disappointed. China is expensive, and there are no concessions for an identical level of cynicism. On the contrary, it’s more costly.

*Editor’s note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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About Jeffrey Fredrich 199 Articles
Jeffrey studied Russian language at Northwestern University and at the Russian State University for the Humanities. He spent one year in Moscow doing independent research as a Fulbright fellow from 2007 to 2008.

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