Russia: U.S. Republican Convention in Context

Most delegates of the United States Republican National Convention in Tampa last week probably did not imagine that Russian netizens were commenting on the proceedings in real time. The highlight for Russian Twitter users and bloggers was, of course, Clint Eastwood’s speech to an empty chair.

One blogger compared [ru] Eastwood’s monologue to rock musician Andrei Makarevich's recent open letter to Putin [ru], saying that Eastwood administered a “whipping” to Obama. It appears that Russians don’t quite realize the historical connotations the word has in the American context, because Russian online reactions to the incident were couched almost exclusively in terms of corporal punishment.

Clint Eastwood. Lumiere Film Festival, Lyon, France. 18 October 2009, photo by Inediz Reports, copyright © Demotix.

Overall, the reception has been mainly positive. Popular blogger and TV personality Tina Kandelaki liked [ru] Eastwood’s panache:

И скажите мне кто-нибудь,что это не круто!!!

I dare someone to tell me this isn’t awesome!!!

Another blogger went further, lamenting [ru] that Eastwood isn’t running for president himself:

Вообще выборы в Америке были б лучше, если от республиканцев шла пара президент Иствуд-вице-президент Шварцнегер, а от демократов соответсвенно Алекс Болдуин-Клуни

All in all, American elections would be better, if the republicans nominated Eastwood, with Schwarznegger as Vice President, and the Democrats went with Alec Baldwin and [George] Clooney.

It is unclear if he meant the race would be more entertaining, or whether the celebrity pairs would make better politicians.

Many Russians believe that a new U.S. president will influence internal Russian politics, and consequently have strong opinions about who would be better for Russia. In particular, because it appears that Mitt Romney will take a harder stance with Vladimir Putin (at least judging by his nomination acceptance speech), some opposition-minded Russians hope for a Republican victory.

One LiveJournal user in the Amur region commented [ru]:

Считаю, что было бы лучше, если бы Ромни стал президентом США. Тогда бы Соединённые Штаты жестче стали разговаривать с Россией касательно нарушения прав человека в нашей стране, за отношения с диктаторскими государствами и вторжения России на территории Грузии…

I think it would be better if Romney became the U.S. president. Then the U.S. would speak more harshly to Russia about issues concerning human rights abuses in our country, about relationships with dictators, and about Russia’s invasion of Georgia…

Another Russian web user, this one tweeting from New York, agreed [ru]:

Парадокс… Либералы России должны молиться чтобы здесь избрали консерватора Ромни, а не либерального Обаму.

It’s a paradox… Russian liberals should pray that here the conservative Romney, rather than liberal Obama, is elected.

Indeed, the liberal media outlet Echo of Moscow recently ran an online poll [ru] asking its audience: “Would you want a person similar to American presidential candidate Mitt Romney to helm Russia?” So far, over 5,000 people have voted, with over 60% answering yes.

Other bloggers think that Romney’s election would be beneficial for Putin. According to blogger vegall [ru], this is because Putin is more comfortable speaking the language of power than being diplomatic. If jingoistic Romney is elected, both leaders will be able to escalate diplomatic conflicts to their mutual advantage. LiveJournal user _iga agrees [ru]:

Путину выгоден Ромни.Это даёт возможность “играть на обострение” и дальше повышать градус “патриотизма” внутри России.

Romney is advantageous for Putin. It gives him the opportunity to exacerbate the situation and to further increase the degree of “patriotism” inside Russia.

Like Romney’s militancy, his Mormonism also appears to cause some concern. A Russian Orthodox online journal recently posted [ru] commentary that alleged that the U.S. State Department uses religious sects as its “agents of influence.” Ominously, Mitt Romney garnered mention as a “high-ranking member of the destructive totalitarian Mormon sect.”

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