Donald Trump took the oath of office on Friday in Washington, D.C., one
particularly fervent group of supporters looked on with admiration.
Throughout the presidential campaign, despite the doubts of most people,
these committed individuals never stopped rooting for him. Friday was
the culmination of their hopes.
these Trump supporters were not Americans, and their celebration was
thousands of miles from the United States. Rather, this group was made
up of patriots devoted to the Russian state, who watched Trump’s
inauguration in one of Moscow’s hippest spots — the Central Telegraph
I didn’t like Clinton. It was clear what relations with Russia were
like under her,” said Maria Belova, a young woman at the inauguration
party who’d just returned from New York. She then held up a handbag
emblazoned with the words “Trump Models,” the name of the agency she
represents, and admitted that she is biased.
Belova’s professional reasons to support Trump made her something of an
exception in this crowd, where most of the organizers operated on more
ideological grounds. The event was staged by ultra-patriotic activists
who view President Trump as Moscow’s ally in the battle for a multipolar
world, hoping America’s new commander-in-chief will bring about a new
era of good relations with Russia.
November, the activists held a pro-Trump election-day party, where
pro-Kremlin political analysts, ultra-patriotic politicians, and Russian
Trump supporters drank whiskey and discussed their hopes for improved
U.S.-Russian relations under Trump.
day, some of the people who came seemed like true believers, while
others appeared to hope simply that Trump would sow discord within
America, forcing the U.S. government to turn its attention inward. That
would create opportunities for Russia on the international stage, they
time, there was little of November’s friskiness. The crowd was quieter
and the presence of the Russian nationalist TV channel TsarGrad — one of
the event’s organizers — gave the gathering an awkward formality. With
Donald Trump’s presidency now a cold, hard reality, it was almost as if
these Russian ultra-patriots suddenly recognized how bizarre it is to
celebrate a foreign country’s election results.
Katasonova, a glamorous youth activist and the public face of the
event, said it wasn’t a celebration, but a platform to discuss the
future of relations between the United States and Russia. Her group even
assembled political experts and analysts to facilitate this important
there were still moments of the old triumphalism. Like last time, the
entrance was still decorated with the “triptych”: a trio of portraits
featuring Donald Trump, French right-wing politician Marine Le Pen, and
Russian President Vladimir Putin. This was the backdrop for TV
interviews and photo ops with reporters, whom Katasonova’s group courted
and guests also poked fun at allegations that the Kremlin carried out
cyber attacks against U.S. political institutions, supposedly trying to
help Trump. One guest wore a t-shirt featuring the “triptych trio” in
Guy Fawkes masks from the 2005 motion picture “V for Vendetta.”
Trump finished his inaugural speech, an event organizer started handing
out Guy Fawkes masks. “This symbolizes the Russian hackers who hacked
the U.S. election,” he said, before explaining in haste, “It’s irony.”
the whole, however, Moscow’s ultra-patriotic activists appeared to be
more pragmatic about Trump’s presidency than they have seemed in the
past — a tone increasingly heard from Kremlin officials, as well.
Obama administration drove U.S.-Russia relations to a nadir unseen
since the Cold War, Katasonova said. Improving relations will take time
and require Trump to overcome a hostile political establishment in
America, she emphasized.
need intensive work from both states,” Katasonova said. “I hope Trump
will be able to put together a good team […] and implement his
campaign promises, so that it won’t be empty populism.”
about the challenges ahead were common among the event’s speakers, too.
Addressing the audience in Moscow after Trump wrapped up his speech,
Leonid Reshetnikov, a retired lieutenant general of Russia’s foreign
intelligence service who now heads a Russian think tank, warned that the
new U.S. president faces major opposition at home.
is the first time a U.S. president has acknowledged the crisis in his
country,” he said. “This will be a really difficult presidency.”
will be resistance, and I’m not talking about a Maidan,” Reshetnikov
said, referring to Ukraine’s revolution three years ago. “The resistance
will come from the security agencies and Congress.”
other Russian experts, like pro-Kremlin political pundit Sergei Markov,
have been more optimistic. At a recent breakfast with John F. Tefft,
the U.S. Ambassador in Russia, Markov claimed to be the only one of more
than a hundred analysts who predicted Trump’s victory from the start of
the presidential race.
himself as a supporter of democracy who dislikes billionaires, Markov
says the current trend in Western politics is an uprising against
globalism and the elite. He makes an exception for Trump, however: “You
have to have your own money to lead a campaign,” he said. “I like those
Reshetnikov, Markov anticipates that Congress and the U.S. security
agencies will try to topple Trump, and the 45th president could be
impeached by 2019, he says.