Moscow — As news that Hillary Clinton had conceded the US election to Donald Trump filtered through in Moscow, Russia’s lower house of parliament erupted in applause.
Trump’s surprise victory was met with bemusement and glee in Moscow, where the Kremlin had barely attempted to conceal its enthusiasm for his praise of President Vladimir Putin and its strong dislike of Clinton in the lead-up to the election.
Speaking in the Kremlin on Wednesday, Putin said he hoped Trump would make good on his promises to improve the US’s relationship with Russia, currently at its lowest point since the cold war.
"Russia is ready and wants to restore fully fledged relations with the US. It won't be easy, but we're prepared to do our part," he said. "This would serve the interests of the Russian and American peoples, as well as positively impacting the general climate in international affairs, taking into account Russia and the US’s special responsibility to support global stability and security," he added.
During his campaign, Trump bucked widespread consensus by praising Putin effusively and repeatedly expressing a desire to improve US-Russia relations. Clinton, his Democratic opponent, accused him of wanting to be Putin's "puppet".
Trump said he would look into removing sanctions passed during the Ukraine crisis, working with Russia in Syria, potentially recognising the annexation of Crimea, and even meeting Putin before his inauguration.
Those statements have encouraged many of Putin’s closest allies.
Viacheslav Volodin, the lower house’s speaker, told reporters he "wanted to believe that a more constructive dialogue" between the two countries would be possible with Trump as president. "Russia’s parliament can only welcome and support any steps in that direction."
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a Trump-esque nationalist firebrand MP, said on state TV that he expected Trump to help Russia achieve its strategic goals in flashpoints such as Syria and Ukraine. "What’s Crimea to him? He doesn’t even know where it is!" he said.
State TV covered the vote with a fervour outstripping its coverage of Russia’s own parliamentary elections two months ago. Rossiya 24, the main state news channel, carried Trump’s victory speech live and played clips of an actor dressed as Trump waving his hands and sticking his tongue out at an actor playing Clinton.
"Corbyn. Brexit. Trump. Any more questions? The world is sick of the establishment, of its lies, of its lying condescending media," tweeted Margarita Simonyan, editor of Kremlin-funded English-language propaganda network RT.
Simonyan added that she planned to drive around Moscow waving a Russian and an American flag from her car window. "They deserved it!" she said.
The euphoria, however, was not shared by all.
Leonid Slutsky, a member of the lower house of parliament, said he suspected Trump’s pro-Russia campaign rhetoric was simply a ruse aimed at striking a contrast with Clinton. "History, including recent history, knows a good many examples when the winning candidate’s campaign rhetoric became more destructive towards Russia," he said.
Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin political analyst, said Trump’s affection for Putin was likely to wane. "The problem is, he is macho and Putin is also macho," he told the FT.
Alexei Venediktov, editor of the Ekho Moskvy talk radio station, said that Trump’s volatile nature was likely to worry the Kremlin. "It’ll be the Brexit effect. I know that Putin had a meeting after Brexit and some of our colleagues from TV congratulated him and said, ‘Hooray! Britain left! Are they crazy?’ Turbulence is starting and it's bad for Russia," he said.
The unexpected nature of Trump’s victory led some of Clinton’s supporters, including former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, to accuse Russia of intervening in the election on his behalf by leaking hacked campaign e-mails. But Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said the Kremlin had not followed the election so closely. "Obviously he wasn’t glued to the TV following the elections. He’s really got a lot of things to do. He’s the president of Russia."
The Financial Times Limited 2016 (c)