MOSCOW — After Donald Trump gave a much-anticipated foreign policy speech Wednesday, some of the most glowing reviews that he received were from a place that doesn’t often see eye-to-eye with American politicians.
Trump’s speech was more than well-received in Russia. In Moscow’s Red Square, passersby speaking to CNN praised the New York tycoon. And Russian politicians from President Vladimir Putin on down have been quoted saying favorable things about the GOP presidential front-runner.
Putin recently called Trump “a brighter person, talented without a doubt.” Trump returned the compliment saying: “I like him because he called me a genius. He said Trump is the real leader.”
And in his address in Washington Wednesday, the billionaire businessman expressed hope about the potential for improvement in American-Russian relations.
“I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia, from a position of strength only, is possible,” Trump said, though he added that the United States should be willing to walk away from the negotiating table if Russia is too demanding.
The message is one that is warmly received on the streets of Moscow.
“The key thing about him is his willingness for a breakthrough in relations with Russia, maybe they won’t get closer but at least there will be a dialogue,” said one man said feet away from the Kremlin.
Another added, “First of all, Trump is a positive guy and he spoke about Putin in a good way. He wants positive changes in America.”
Many believe that Trump and Putin would get along well on a personal level and that alone could help ease tensions between the U.S. and Russia, which have been building up over the past years.
Fyodor Lukyanov, the head of the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, said he believes Vladimir Putin would like Trump’s style.
“He likes people who are frank, open and who disregard political correctness. And that is exactly the case with Mr. Trump,” Lukyanov told CNN.
But of course a bromance between political leaders is not enough to improve bilateral relations.
The U.S and Russia have had massive disagreements over Ukraine in particular, where America accuses Russia of funding, equipping and providing combat support to separatist rebels and demands the return of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
Russia, for its part, wants sanctions levied against it by the international community because of its meddling in Ukraine’s affairs to be canceled.
When Trump spoke about improving relations with Russia he didn’t mention Ukraine or Crimea. Top-level Russian politicians have called Trump the most “pragmatic” of the candidates for the White House.
“He expresses readiness to come to terms with the Russian President instead of making conflicts with us, the way today’s administration is doing,” Alexey Pushkov, head of the foreign relations committee of Russian parliament said, according to the Tass news agency.
So would a Trump presidency really mean better relations between the U.S. and Russia?
Lukyanov doubts it.
“Whoever will be president, the expertise will be made by the same people. And the conclusion is pretty gloomy,” he said. “There’s no way to find people inside America’s intellectual community who are ready to take on a more say sympathetic position towards Russia.”