The results of the 2016 presidential election had not been announced yet, but a group of Vladimir Putin supporters, gathered at the Union Jack pub in Moscow, seemed confident about the outcome. They included public figures, journalists, and activists, who zealously supported Donald Trump’s presidential bid. In the room, a giant portrait showed Trump, Putin, and France’s right wing leader, Marine Le Pen, gathered together, youthful and noble looking and resembling one another.
Reportedly, the crowd screamed, “Florida is ours!” when the swing state went to Trump. For them, the experienced and competent Democratic party candidate, Hillary Clinton, was the enemy. She was synonymous with the America so vehemently demonized by the Kremlin over the past several years. She was the America that supported the Euromaidan protest in Ukraine in 2014, pushed for economic sanctions against Russia, and buttressed the “illegitimate” rebels trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
As the only alternative to Clinton, Trump was their default favorite, as well as the Kremlin’s preferred candidate. More than just the lesser of two evils, Trump had an attitude and set of goals that were similar to Putin’s – both men shared a desire to make their countries “great again” through hardline policies at home and abroad.
“Their [Trump and Putin] approach to foreign policy is phenomenally similar,” said the Kremlin’s Press Secretary, Sergei Peskov, emphasizing that both leaders prioritize their country’s interests above all else.
Kremlin-sponsored media overwhelmingly championed Trump, with a focus on resetting U.S.-Russia relations. Focused exclusively on demonizing Clinton, these media outlets willfully ignored the misogyny, bigotry, and racism of the Trump campaign. The fact that Trump never released his tax returns, publicly bragged about sexually assaulting women, and demonized immigrants and people of color were of little concern for the Russian media.
After Trump’s victory, when protests against the president-elect began to unfold in New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and other cities across the United States, Russia Today, the Kremlin-sponsored English-language propaganda outlet, called them “deliberate attempts to discredit Trump’s victory.” RT blamed the progressive organizing group MoveOn.org for instigating the anti-Trump protests. RT pointed at one of the organization’s donors, philanthropist George Soros, who, according to the outlet, “stirred up anti-government protests across the globe.” RT also drew a parallel between these demonstrations and Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, which the media outlet referred to as color revolution sponsored by Western organizations and funded by Soros.
Of course, neither MoveOn.org nor Soros has anything to do with the grassroots movement of thousands of people in the United States who have taken and continue to take to the streets against a man they consider unfit to lead their country. RT’s narrative on the protest is, however, very much in line with the Trump campaign’s own narrative on the demonstrations. “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” Trump tweeted in response to the protests.
While it is too early to predict what U.S.-Russia relations will look like with Trump in the White House, the overwhelming support among the Russian establishment for the president-elect strongly suggests a potentially strong alliance between the two countries.