The night before Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States, a group of Russians and foreigners celebrated at a bar in central Moscow.
Over food, drinks and musical performances, some went as far as singing Trump’s praises. “Trump, is unbelievable. Trump is a superman,” said Russian singer Willi Tokarev as he promoted an album called "Trumplissimo America!"
“Trump is a symbol of America," he said. "Trump [is] really president.”
Most Russians expect relations between Moscow and Washington to improve under Trump, although expectations have abated somewhat since the initial mix of shock and euphoria from his November election.
“I hope we will be friends and I hope there will be a certain ... move toward each other between our countries,” said agricultural businesswoman Katya Boudayva, whose friend invited her to the event billed as “Trump Celebration Party!” “But, it’s unpredictable. I think nobody can say for sure what will happen. We’ll see. Let’s hope for the best.”
Window for a deal?
While some argue Trump’s presidency marks a revolution in U.S. politics, little is known about his policy on Russia or how he will deal with President Vladimir Putin.
“What he is going to do is unclear and perhaps that is unclear to him, too,” said former Kremlin adviser Gleb Pavlovsky in a December interview with VOA. “In this, he resembles Putin; but, Putin is the bearer of uncertainty and that's the essence of his policy. It is not very clear what will happen when the leader of uncertainty and the leader of the new revolution will meet; but, it is clear that Russia today has got a window for a possible serious deal.”
One deal was already on hand: To celebrate Trump’s inauguration, a chain of Russian Army stores, under Russia’s Ministry of Defense, offered a 10 percent discount to American citizens.
At its branch across from the U.S. embassy in Moscow, electronic billboards flashed Trump’s image with an announcement for the special offer. Photographers and passers-by stopped to take photos.
Hopes for warming relations
“By this promotional action we want to acquaint Americans with our products and express our hope for the warming of relations between our countries,” said Ekaterina Korotkova, spokeswoman for the Russian Army chain. She told VOA the only similar previous special offer she recalls in honor of a foreign leader was when Americans were given a 5 percent discount after Trump’s election.
“Donald Trump’s background is, in fact, one of a ‘creator,’” said Korotkova. “Therefore, he, like nobody else, is aware how good relations are more important than any antagonism.”
Shop staff helped a retirement-aged woman with her purchase of toy figurines of Russian special forces used in Crimea to take over Ukrainian military bases.
The Russian Army chain of shops launched a clothing and toy line in 2015 to celebrate Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Russia’s military actions in Ukraine sparked Western sanctions and tensions that caused relations to drop to their lowest level since the Cold War. The Kremlin hopes to see that change under President Trump.