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Putin's Adversaries in Russia Wonder How Much Worse Things Will Be Thanks to Trump

One of countless Putin-Trump Internet memes.

One of countless Putin-Trump Internet memes.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory, there’s been wide speculation in both Russia and the United States about whether America’s new commander in chief will be a friend or foe to the Kremlin.

Before last week, most experts and election prognosticators anticipated a harder line from Washington under Hillary Clinton. Instead, the world is looking at four years of leadership from a man who has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical prowess and signaled his willingness to rewrite U.S. foreign policy commitments in Eastern Europe, where Russia says it is unhappy with NATO’s encroachment.

As Trump’s opponents in the U.S. and around the world manage their post-election panic, Russia’s democratic opposition finds itself in quite a pickle, as the Western power it most often looked to for guidance and support has suddenly made president a man who apparently has little interest in the state of Russia’s democracy.

While Russian oppositionists’ feelings about Trump are as varied as the dissidents themselves, activists and politicians are understandably most interested to know if the next U.S. president will help or hinder their cause to bring an end to the Putin regime and revitalize Russia’s democratic institutions.

In the immediate aftermath of the U.S. election last week, anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny published a blog post and a YouTube video asking if Trump would be bad or good for Russia. The video, which features English subtitles, now has more than 1 million views.

Navalny argues that Trump is unlikely to be the gift to the Kremlin that many suspect, laying out four general reasons: (1) Trump’s promises to scale back environmental protections and to unleash U.S. energy production will drive down world oil prices; (2) Trump’s strongest praise for Putin is in the past, and it’s unlikely that he can remove sanctions, even if he wants to; (3) Trump will launch a new arms race, boosting defense spending; and (4) Trump and Putin disagree about domestic policy issues like immigration, the government’s role in the economy, the right to bear arms, and “Islamification.” (In his fourth point, Navalny is clearly appealing to his fellow “liberal-nationalists,” whose political views on these issues are far closer to Trump’s than Putin’s.)

Despite his million views and 35,000 “upvotes,” Navalny hasn’t convinced everyone that Trump is bad news for the Kremlin.

Like Navalny, Vladimir Milov is a prominent liberal-nationalist in Russia today. Unlike Navalny, he is also an energy-sector expert. In 2002, he served as deputy energy minister of the Russian Federation. On Sunday, Nov. 13, Milov spoke to the online project “Moscow Activist,” explaining his disappointment with the U.S. election and his fear that Russia’s democratic opposition may have lost an important ally while gaining a dangerous adversary.

Что касается российской оппозиции, нам Америка как таковая не нужна. Это наша работа — здесь в России добиваться изменений, и мы помощи от них не ждем, но я скажу вот что.

Трамп вел свою кампанию больше года. Ни разу ни он, ни его вице-президент Пенс не покритиковали Путина по-серезьному. При том, что, Путин развязал войну на Донбассе, где погибло 10 тысяч человек, сбит малайзийский боинг — триста мирных жертв, в России продолжаются и еще усиливаются адские репрессии против политической оппозиции. Все видели, только что было много шума по поводу Ильдара Дадина, которого избили в колонии, а он сидит за то, что просто с плакатом стоял. Убили Бориса Немцова. Ну много чего происходит.

Ни слова плохого про Путина и про режим в России за все это время Трамп не сказал.

Мы же тоже считываем тоже этот сигнал — важно это все для него, или для него важны другие вещи. В этом смысле для нас Трамп выглядит как недружественный лидер, враждебный. Враждебный лидер, который является потенциальным союзником Путина и нашим противником.

То есть по сути он стал лидером недружественного для нас государства на сегодня. Для нас Америка, конечно, была символом свободного мира, она действительно очень много сделала для развития демократии в мире. Но с таким лидером это все меняется как в калейдоскопе, и мы видим в нем союзника диктатора. Вы видите, как все диктатуры бросились его поздравить, все антиглобалистские силы просто счастливы от этой победы. Это совершенно не радует. Я делаю вывод о том, что в ближайшее время Америка — это будет страна, которая будет скорее помогать Путину. А нам крайне неприятно, что все эти безобразия, которые в России происходят, не получили от Трампа ни малейшеи моральной оценки.

As for the Russian opposition, we don’t need America, per se. It’s our job to bring about change here in Russia, and we’re not sitting around waiting for help from them [the Americans].

But I’ll say this: Trump campaigned for more than a year, and not once did he or his running mate Pence ever criticize Putin in a serious way. This after Putin launched a war in eastern Ukraine, where 10,000 people have died, and where the Malaysian Boeing was shot down with 300 innocent victims. And extraordinary repressions continue against the political opposition inside Russia. Just recently, everyone saw the media storm around Ildar Dadin, who was beaten in prison, where he’s locked up simply for protesting with a banner. They killed Boris Nemtsov. There’s just a lot going on.

In all this time, Trump never said a bad word about Putin or his regime in Russia.

We’re looking at these same signals: does any of this matter to him, or are there other things more important to him? In this sense, Trump looks to us like an unfriendly, hostile leader — a hostile leader who is our potential adversary and possibly one of Putin’s allies.

In essence, he’s become the leader of a state that is hostile to us today. For us, of course, America was the symbol of the free world. It really did a lot for the development of democracy around the world, but everything changes like inside a kaleidoscope with a leader like this, and we see in Trump the ally of a dictator. You saw how all the dictators rushed to congratulate him. How all the world’s anti-globalization forces are simply thrilled with this victory.

But this is absolutely no cause for celebration. I suspect that America, in the near future, will become a country that is more likely than not to help Putin. And for us it’s extremely unfortunate that all these outrages that are occurring in Russia haven’t provoked the smallest moral judgement from Donald Trump.

Milov shared his comments on Facebook, addressing them as a “reminder” to the “weirdos in the Russian opposition who are drooling over Trump and the ‘decision of the American people.’” “It seems the Devil has fooled them,” he wrote.

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