Russia and Trump’s victory: recognising “anti-establishment” diversity

by Andrew Wilson and Nina Bachkatov

The Kremlin was not hoping for a president Trump, but simply as anyone other than Hillary Clinton. But it would certainly have preferred a more ‘traditional’ partner with whom to restore bilateral relations and settle international conflicts

Which explains why the victory of Trump has been largely applauded by the Russian media and by many ordinary Russian people who have been fed for weeks by the undiplomatic declarations of Hillary Clinton. The worst were Mrs. Clinton’s accusations that president Putin was deliberately helping Donald Trump, that President Putin’s ‘cronies’ have had backdoor deals with the American entrepreneur, that Putin had ordered the hacking of Democrats e-mails and had sought to disturb the American electronic voting system.

That was quite a lot for a candidate who, already before the U.S. presidential election campaign, as the head of the State Department, was accused by the Russians of goading the opposition into the post electoral demonstrations of late 2011 and early 2012 in an attempt to launch a Russian Maidan, and of promoting the “people’s diplomacy” which Russians translate as structural American interference in internal affairs of other states.

Another horror story for Russians would include the hiring in an influential position in the Clinton’s administration of Michael McFaul, the academic who acted as a highly undiplomatic ambassador to Moscow (he even received the Russian opposition at the Embassy before presenting his credentials) – and who has been very vocal during the current presidential campaign, alerting American media to the danger of Russia’s hand in the American political life.


At least, Hillary Clinton was seen by Russian officials as an experienced person with a deep inside knowledge of international relations. This can not be said of her rival. In a country where one values predictability, Trump is a blank page. Hence the quickness with which Putin congratulated him on his victory, hoping to write his message on that blank page as quickly as possible.

In his congratulation, Putin recalled that during the campaign the would-be next American president had expressed his intention of repairing relations with Russia, and in his victory speech had expressed his readiness to work with all countries who put partnership above conflict.

But he also reasserted the main lines of Russia’s international relations:

  • Russia is open to dialogue and ready to do its part to restore relations
  • The dialogue has to be on equal footing
  • Those who have broken bridges are expected to come with proposals to rebuild them

Russians may find something paradoxical about the image of a man who after almost 20 years in power shows no sign of preparing for his retirement yet nevertheless applauds the victory of another country’s anti-establishment candidate. But obviously in Trump’s victory, Putin feels vindicated in his conviction that a single universal model of society is a fiction, and that the Western model presented as the world’s only alternative to the “Putin’s system” is rejected by at least half the population of the Americans.

In this meaning, certainly, Trumps is anti-establishment.

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