- - Thursday, November 10, 2016

MOSCOW — Donald Trump’s shock victory in the presidential election Tuesday has sent champagne corks flying around this city, where state media and pro-Kremlin politicians are confidently predicting a dramatic turnaround in Russian-U.S. relations.

Although it’s not clear what he will do when he comes to power, Mr. Trump has alarmed U.S. allies in Eastern Europe by suggesting that he would scale down American commitment to NATO while appearing to say that he could accept the status of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by the Kremlin in 2014.

He has also indicated that he would consider lifting crippling economic sanctions imposed by the Obama administration over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.


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The Russian ruble and stock markets gained Wednesday as news of Mr. Trump’s victory broke. That is seen here as a sign of a possible warming of bilateral ties and a repudiation of Democrat Hillary Clinton, who had pledged to be more assertive with Russia over Syria and Ukraine.

“I think that Trump, as a pragmatic person, will scrap anti-Russian sanctions that are also hurting American business,” Sergei Glazyev, a Kremlin economic adviser, told the Tass state news agency. “The entire whole foreign policy of the previous administration was focused on aggression against Russia with the aim of maintaining U.S. hegemony,” he said. “We can say this aggression has failed.”



Although Novaya Gazeta, an opposition-friendly newspaper, criticized what it called Mr. Trump’s rejection of President Obama’s “path of progressive change,” many ordinary Russians were positive about the election result — a sharp contrast to the reaction across much of Western Europe and Asia.

Trump will be good for Russia. Clinton hates Russia, and relations would have suffered terribly between our countries if she had won,” said Irina Mirova, a 23-year-old shop assistant.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who traded compliments with the Republican candidate during the campaign, was one of the first world leaders to issue a statement welcoming the win of the president-elect.

Russia wants and is ready to restore fully fledged relations with the United States,” Mr. Putin said on Wednesday. He said he would seek a “constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington that is based on principles of equality, mutual respect and a real accounting of each other’s positions, in the interests of our peoples and the world community.”

To the concern of many in the Washington foreign policy establishment, Mr. Putin this year praised the billionaire businessman and former reality TV show star as “outstanding” and “talented.” Mr. Trump has repeatedly praised Mr. Putin as a “strong leader,” and many of his aides and business interests have links to Russia.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov revealed to the Interfax news agency Thursday that the government was in touch with members of Mr. Trump’s political team during the campaign and established personal ties with some of Mr. Trump’s advisers.

“There were contacts,” Interfax cited Mr. Ryabkov as saying. “We are doing this and have been doing this during the election campaign.”

He added, “Obviously, we know most of the people from [Mr. Trump‘s] entourage. Those people have always been in the limelight in the United States and have occupied high-ranking positions. I cannot say that all of them, but quite a few, have been staying in touch with Russian representatives.”

Champagne in the Duma

Lawmakers in Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, burst into applause when it was announced that Mr. Trump had captured the White House. Vyacheslav Volodin, the parliamentary speaker, said he hoped Mr. Trump would end what he called the current U.S. administration’s double standards.

“It’s important to listen to each other,” he said. “This is a two-way street.”

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a prominent ultranationalist politician, toasted Mr. Trump’s unexpected triumph with champagne in the Duma.

“It’s possible we could see a turnaround in the domestic politics of the United States in favor of ordinary, poor citizens, as well as a turnaround in international relations, when America will interfere less in things that don’t concern it,” he said. The fiery, outspoken Mr. Zhirinovsky recently warned that a win for Mrs. Clinton would lead to nuclear war between Russia and the United States.

State television, which covered the U.S. election in more detail than it reported on Russia’s own parliamentary elections in September, hailed what it called Mr. Trump’s overthrow of the American bipartisan “political establishment,” which is seen as hostile to Mr. Putin and suspicious of Russian motives in Ukraine, Eastern Europe and Syria. State television also broadcast a clip of an actor dressed as Mr. Trump taunting one dressed as Mrs. Clinton.

“There is no doubt that they are feeling a deep sense of pleasure right now in the Kremlin,” Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of Russia’s Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, told The Washington Times. “Putin supports Trump because he rejects political correctness. Putin hates political correctness and thinks it is a terrible hypocrisy. This is why he will find a common language with Trump.”

Mr. Lukyanov warned, however, that American foreign policies were still largely unclear and that the promise of warmer ties could easily turn sour.

Alexander Prokhanov, a nationalist ideologue with links to the Kremlin, said in an interview that while tensions would remain inevitable between the two former Cold War rivals, relations would become “more honest, franker and simpler” when Mr. Trump takes office. He also predicted a decrease in U.S. backing for Ukraine, where government forces are battling Kremlin-supported separatist fighters across the eastern side of the country.

Despite Mr. Trump’s lewd boasting and checkered personal life, Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church also welcomed his stunning election triumph, saying it hoped the president-elect would bring about an improvement in international relations.

But not everyone here buys into the idea that the stunning presidential result will alter the fundamental difficulties of the bilateral relationship.

The Communist Party, the second-largest political party after United Russia, is one of the skeptics. “Nothing serious will change,” said Gennady Zyuganov, the party’s veteran leader. “The times have changed, the technology, the weather, but the strategy of the Americans has not.”

In Siberia, the governor of the vast Omsk region, Viktor Nazarov, described Mr. Trump’s victory as a triumph for Russia’s ruling party. “This should be applauded. It means that United Russia has won at the American elections.”

Still clouding the air are charges that the Kremlin or its supporters tried to influence the outcome of the U.S. election by hacking into and releasing embarrassing internal communications of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

The Kremlin has denounced accusations by U.S. officials that Russian government hackers attempted to influence the election by stealing and releasing the damaging emails.

But Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow who has become a sharp critic of Russian policy, tweeted sarcastically, “Putin intervened in our elections and succeeded. Well done!”

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