For all the American media coverage of President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia, what’s rarely heard are the voices of Russians themselves. Russians on Trump: Coverage and Commentary
(East View Press, 2018), edited by Laurence Bogoslaw
, surveys the range of opinions about Trump that have appeared in the Russian press from the late 1990s to today. Before 2015, Trump’s sporadic appearances in Russian news outlets mostly centered on his efforts to hawk real estate. During the presidential campaign, some Russian commentators were intrigued by the idea that Trump might reduce American commitments abroad; focusing on policy rather than personality, they arguably took him seriously as a political player before domestic pundits did. Nevertheless, Trump’s election came as a shock to Russian analysts, many of whom had predicted a Clinton victory. While flamboyant ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky popped champagne, others (such as Moscow Times
editor Mikhail Fishman) despaired. “The hope for change in Russia has just been buried in the voting booths of Florida, Michigan and North Carolina,” he wrote on November 10. In the following months, most Russian commentators did not deny the plausibility of Russian cyber-espionage and media influence, though they placed such efforts within the realm of normal statecraft and shrugged off the notion that they influenced the election’s outcome. Even as Trump reneged on his campaign rhetoric about NATO and other key issues, Russian media forecasts for bilateral relations remained largely sunny—until he signed off on a new round of sanctions in August 2017, leading to widespread disillusionment and more negative coverage.
Joy Neumeyer is a journalist and PhD candidate in History at the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation project explores the role of death in Soviet culture.