By Peter Spinella — Many Muscovites appeared to be cautiously optimistic on Friday about new US president, Donald Trump, who has promised to rebuild bilateral ties, frayed in recent years amid conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. At a bar popular with Americans in central Moscow, Russians and Western foreigners alike cheered Trump as he was sworn into office. Trump, a businessman who has expressed reverence for Russia and publicly praised its longtime leader Vladimir Putin, is a controversial figure at home but welcomed with a glimmer of hope in a Moscow weary of US sanctions over the Ukraine conflict.
Several locals at Moscow’s Hudson Bar, run by a couple of Americans, believed Trump would make good on his promise to improve US-Russian ties.
“There are big hopes, but no one is sure of anything,” said Anna, a Russian who is married to an American. She said an improvement in ties would be good for her family, but she was unsure of the extent to which that could happen. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, set out on a reset in relations with Russia early in his first term, with Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state. Russians were offered three-year visas to visit the States, and local sentiment was considerably optimistic.
But the reset soon unravelled amid opposing loyalties in the crisis in Libya, a longtime Russian ally that is now widely considered a failed state. “Maybe relations will improve a bit. I think Trump is smart, according to his experience as a businessman,” said Yekaterina, who works as an English and French teacher in Moscow. “I think people don’t like the manner in which he speaks, but he isn’t that bad,” Yekaterina said. “Time will tell.” Trump reminded her of a local firebrand politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, known for populist, nationalist rhetoric.
Zhirinovsky, a career politician, is the vice speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament. He and Trump have often been compared. “It’s interesting to see all these different reactions from Americans in this important moment,” said Mikhail, who works for an IT services company. “I think Trump could improve relations, but not necessarily would,” Mikhail said. — DPA