MOSCOW — This is a pivotal moment in Russia’s rocky relationship with the United States.
For years, Moscow and Washington have been at each other’s throats over issues ranging from Syria to Ukraine, economic sanctions to allegations of hacking and political meddling.
But with President-elect Donald Trump, and his apparent willingness to cut deals with Russia, comes a new hope for the Kremlin.
“We have heard his electoral slogans when he was still a candidate,” Vladimir Putin, Russia’s strongman president, told a gathering of ambassadors in Moscow shortly after Trump’s victory.
“Russia is ready and wants to restore a fully-fledged relationship with the United States,” he added.
In Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, the reaction was euphoric. Deputies, all loyal to the Kremlin, erupted in applause as news of the shock election result came in.
Russia’s carefully-controlled state media was gushing in its praise.
Trump was always their preferred candidate, although analysts say that was probably just as much to do with a bitter animosity towards Hillary Clinton, who is often portrayed by Moscow as a raving anti-Russian warmonger.
So what does Russia expect from the Trump presidency?
“Trump is a practical man,” said Sergei Glazyev, a Russian presidential aide. “He will lift sanctions on Russia.”
US sanctions were imposed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
During his election campaign, Trump suggested he would consider recognizing Russian sovereignty over the strategic Black Sea peninsula.
There are Kremlin expectations regarding Syria too, where its forces are backing President Bashar al-Assad in a brutal civil war.
Hillary Clinton voiced support for enforcing no-fly zones to protect civilians there from attack, risking direct confrontation between US and Russian forces.
Trump, in contrast, spoke of joining with Russia to eliminate groups in Syria like ISIS.
But healing the rift between the two former Cold War rivals won’t be easy or quick.
A Kremlin spokesman told CNN it would be “silly” to expect the strained relationship to improve overnight.
However, the apparent high regard in which Putin and Trump hold each other might help.
The Russian leader has praised Trump as a “bright” and “colorful” figure, and Trump returned the compliment, calling Putin a “strong” leader.
The so-called “bromance” between the two became a major issue in the US presidential campaign, with Clinton accusing Trump of being a Kremlin “puppet.”
But what was a liability during the campaign may yet prove an asset in office.
Back in 2009, the then US Secretary of State Clinton attempted to reset Washington’s tetchy relationship with Moscow.
It is possible that the incoming President Trump, with his apparently sympathetic stance, may succeed in Russia where she failed.
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