Like something out of a Rocky movie, titans of the East and West unite like a post cold war era Hollywood movie, except Rocky isn’t coming back to fight in this one, it’s Rocky 8, he’s in the nursing home battling dementia.
This article titled “Putin applauds Trump win and hails new era of positive ties with US” was written by Shaun Walker in Moscow and Luke Harding, for The Guardian on Wednesday 9th November 2016 14.39 UTC
Russian president Vladimir Putin called for a new era of “fully fledged relations” between his country and the US yesterday after a surprise victory which was applauded in the Russian parliament and prompted speculation that US-imposed sanctions could be lifted.
After an election campaign in which Russia was openly accused of interfering in favour of Donald Trump, Putin congratulated the president-elect on his victory and said Russia was ready to work for better ties.
“We understand that it will not be an easy path given the current state of degradation in the relations,” he said, speaking in the Kremlin.
“And as I have repeatedly said, it’s not our fault that Russian-American relations are in such a poor state. But Russia wants and is ready to restore fully fledged relations with the United States.”
Earlier, Putin became one of the first world leaders to congratulate Trump, sending him a telegram expressing hope for an era of positive ties. Many Russian politicians welcomed the news, both because Trump has spoken of his admiration for Putin and because he represents a blow against the US “establishment”.
Relations between the US and Russia have reached a post-cold war low over the past two years, due to differences over Syria and Ukraine. Moscow’s involvement in the latter’s conflict led the US to impose sanctions.
“Clearly the chances of sanctions being lifted on Russia have risen substantially,” Charles Robertson, Renaissance Capital’s global chief economist, said of Trump’s victory. “That would improve the investment climate for Russia.”
Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin political analyst, was jubilant at the result and said a Trump presidency would make it more likely the US would agree with Russia on Syria, where the two powers back different sides and Moscow has intervened decisively on behalf of the president, Bashar al-Assad.
Markov also said it would mean less American backing for “the terroristic junta in Ukraine”. He denied allegations of Russian interference in the election, but said “maybe we helped a bit with WikiLeaks.”
Alexei Venediktov, the editor-in-chief of Russia’s liberal Echo of Moscow radio, said that while some in the Kremlin were probably celebrating, other “more serious” people realised there were unpredictable times ahead.
“Putin doesn’t like unpredictability and Trump is the definition of unpredictability,” he said. “They celebrated Brexit and then Boris Johnson became foreign secretary and they thought, ‘Oh God, what is this?’”
Elsewhere in the region Trump’s victory was met more warily. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko offered his “sincere congratulations” to the Republican “and to the friendly American nation on democratic expression of will.”
Officials in Ukraine had expressed fear prior to the vote that a Trump presidency could see them thrown under the bus in favour of improved ties with Russia.
The three Baltic states were similarly tentative in their welcome to the newcomer on the world stage.
Trump has previously suggested his administration could be less committed to Nato and would not automatically defend a Nato country under attack, statements that have worried leaders in the three Baltic nations – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – who fear a newly assertive Russia.
Lithuania’s president Dalia Grybauskaite said the US remained “our firmest and closest ally”. But the country’s incoming prime minister Saulius Skvernelis said that he hoped Trump’s remarks on defence and Russia were campaign rhetoric. He added bluntly: “I hope the election campaign is now over and it is not yet time to panic.”
The mood in Latvia was also anxious. Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete said the result showed the US embracing isolationism, which would weaken American involvement in Nato. In Estonia, meanwhile, the government collapsed yesterday, after prime minister Taavi Roivas lost a no-confidence vote in parliament. This could see a pro-Russian party join the ruling coalition.
On Wednesday morning, as Trump was edging ever closer to the White House, the US ambassador in Moscow held a breakfast reception at his residence. Shellshocked European diplomats and Russian liberals watched as the chances of a Clinton victory evaporated.
Evgenia Albats, the editor of the opposition New Times magazine, said: “I cannot believe it. There will be absolutely no constraints on Putin now at all. This will be a disaster.”
The ambassador, John Tefft, reminded visitors that diplomats were unable to give personal opinions on elections. He added: “Whether you’re happy or not, one of the key things here is to understand that our institutions in America will continue.”
He also spoke about the importance of a free media in providing checks and balances to government power, something that sounded hopeful rather than declarative given Trump’s attacks on the media during the campaign.
Privately, many US diplomats in the country will be wondering whether a President Trump means a total reversal on Russia policy. Tefft’s predecessor in the role, Michael McFaul, has been extremely critical of Trump’s campaign and wrote on Twitter as the results came in: “Putin intervened in our elections and succeeded. Well done!” He later deleted the tweet.
The mood of policymakers around the Russian president was one of cautious optimism.
A source close to the Kremlin said: “The political space for every US president is quite narrow because a lot of the momentum is in the mentality of military people, secret services and politicians around the president. But it is obvious that Trump, as a former businessman, will be much more pragmatic and won’t be a hostage of the mistakes previously and generously made by Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama.”
However, even Trump’s biggest cheerleaders recognised that, despite Trump’s pre-election praise for Putin, the reality could be different. “Putin is a macho, Trump is also a macho. Maybe it could be a problem,” said Markov, the pro-Kremlin analyst.
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