Who would Russians vote for in the U.S. presidential election

"We all wish Putin would choose to modernize his country and move toward the West instead of sinking himself into historical roots of tsar-like behavior," Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said. "Look at Putin… whether you like him or don’t like him, he’s doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia, period," Republican candidate Donald Trump said.

"We all wish Putin would choose to modernize his country and move toward the West instead of sinking himself into historical roots of tsar-like behavior," Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said. "Look at Putin… whether you like him or don’t like him, he’s doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia, period," Republican candidate Donald Trump said.

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Donald Trump might be internationally unpopular, but in Russia he has a clear lead over Hillary Clinton. Even the latest scandal, in which he was recorded making lewd sexual comments about women, has failed to tarnish his reputation.

"We all wish Putin would choose to modernize his country and move toward the West instead of sinking himself into historical roots of tsar-like behavior," Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said. "Look at Putin… whether you like him or don’t like him, he’s doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia, period," Republican candidate Donald Trump said. Source: Getty Images"We all wish Putin would choose to modernize his country and move toward the West instead of sinking himself into historical roots of tsar-like behavior," Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said. "Look at Putin… whether you like him or don’t like him, he’s doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia, period," Republican candidate Donald Trump said. Source: Getty Images

What do you expect to hear while visiting a Moscow pharmacy to buy some medicine to combat seasonal flu? Talk of the skyrocketing prices of medicine, maybe?

Well how about the name of Donald Trump, the flamboyant Republican presidential candidate? “If I were an American, I would vote for Trump because he loves Russia,” a grey-haired sales assistant says to one of his customers, who nods in agreement.

The phrase might sound absurd, since an American voter is more concerned about his own country than about the well-being of other states. However, Trump’s statements on mending fences with Russia and his warm words about its president Vladimir Putin have earned him huge respect among Russians.

According to a recent survey by WIN/Gallup International Association (in 45 countries, covering three-quarters of the global population) Russia is the only country where Trump would beat Hillary Clinton – by a margin of 23 percentage points.

Starring role in pop video

Donald Trump was little known in Russia before the presidential election campaign. While he drew up plans to build a Trump hotel in Moscow during Mikhail Gorbachev’s presidency, he never realized them. He did have friends among some Russian show business figures, including Emin Agalarov, son of the property developer Aras Agalarov, who persuaded Trump to star in a music video in 2013.

The humorous pop video, called Emin in Another World, shows Agalarov Jnr dreaming about meeting Trump’s Miss Universe models before being brought back to reality with a bump.

Donald Trump, who hosted the first 14 seasons of the U.S. version of The Apprentice, fires him: “I am tired of you,” while sitting at the head of a table across from Agalarov’s character. The video has been viewed more than 1.5 million times on YouTube.

Trump also maintains ties with other Russian show business figures who have performed in his Atlantic City casino. One of them is pop star Philipp Kirkorov, who has met the American several times: “If Donald Trump becomes president, relations between our countries will become better and I pray for it,” Kirkorov told the BBC in September.

Anti-establishment figure

However, some experts also say that Trump’s flamboyant style and the impression he gives of telling things straight, plays well with the Russians. “He is an anti-establishment figure and Russians hate the American establishment,” Georgy Bovt, an expert on the U.S. and a columnist for Gazeta.ru, told RBTH.

The fact that Russian state TV has often given Trump favorable coverage, while ridiculing Clinton, has also contributed to his popularity in Russia. There are also some politicians in Russia whose popularity is based on a Trump-style populist agenda. Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov calls Trump a “second-rate version” of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the right-wing leader of Russian nationalist party LDPR, who is known for his outrageous statements. Zhirinovsky admits that he likes Trump’s style: “He speaks freely and gives an instant reaction,” he told reporters in August.

And the populist pharmaceutical tycoon Vladimir Bryntsalov ran a very Trump-like campaign against Boris Yeltsin in 1996. As flamboyant as Trump, Bryntsalov failed to win hearts and minds in Russia, coming 10th in the race for the Kremlin. Both Zhirinovsky and Bryntsalov are also, like Trump, known for their disrespect towards women, although their comments have raised few eyebrows in Russia.

Ironically, Russian’s chief “Trump supporter” Vladimir Putin has never met the Republican nominee. When Trump visited Moscow in 2013 to host the Miss World pageant, Putin had no time to meet the future presidential candidate. Nevertheless, Leonid Dzunik, a show business promoter and a member of pro-Putin party United Russia, said that he favors Trump for different reasons: “I support Putin, but my support for Trump is nothing to do with my support for Putin. I like him because he was able to achieve everything by himself and was able to overcome other candidates. I like when a politician moves forward. As far as Clinton is concerned, I just hate to see her plastic smile,” he told RBTH.

Fear and loathing

Many Russians favor Trump because they dislike Clinton. Many see the former Secretary of State as divisive character. “I don’t like that a person who aims to preside over a country is focused on wars,” said Natalya Karpovich, a former deputy head of the Duma family relations committee.

“I don’t want this woman to be President of the United States, even though I usually support and cheer on women in power.”

President Putin has also publicly blamed Hillary Clinton for orchestrating anti-government protests in 2011 in Moscow.

The popular Russian fiction writer Edward Topol, an American citizen who has always voted Republican, said that it would be easy for Messrs Putin and Trump to start their relationship from scratch: “They have no history of having a relationship. Everyone will be able to step back. Trump is a new man, but Clinton’s second name is Obama.”

However, with polls showing Trump closing the gap but still trailing, Russia may have to deal with Hillary Clinton as President. It will be hard for both leaders, but there is a possibility that her husband Bill might be able smooth relations between Clinton and Putin, the Russian leader and the former American President being reportedly on good terms. When Bill Clinton visited Russia in 2010, Putin used the Russian form of familiar address ty rather than the more formal vy when in conversation with Clinton. It is known that Putin uses this form only to address foreign leaders with whom he is on good terms.

According to one of Clinton’s emails, Putin even invited Clinton to take part with him in tagging polar bears as a part of an Arctic expedition.

While Clinton did not take up the offer, one of Clinton’s leaked emails shows she sees a potential bond with Putin: “We both want to protect wildlife, and I know how committed you are to protecting the tiger,” she said.

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