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MOSCOW — He may have called for “bombing the hell out of ISIS” and refused to rule out dropping a nuclear bomb on Europe, but many Russians have come to see President-elect Donald Trump as their best hope for peace.
According to this world view, which is reinforced by state-controlled television, America is seen as an aggressor that uses its military and soft power to promote regime change across the globe.
Hillary Clinton was portrayed as a dangerous candidate who favored foreign interventions in the name of democracy while Trump was described as a bulwark against a possible war with the United States.
"I hope it will be less [of a chance of war], because bad things are happening in the Russian army,” said Alexei Kolin, 21, who was recently discharged from the military.
“The new draftees … are told that Americans are evil and taught to kill,” he told NBC News. “I think if [Trump] won, the chance of war will be less — it’s very big now.”
This is a view expressed frequently by commentators on Russian television channels, including Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a flamboyant lawmaker and a nationalist ally of President Vladimir Putin.
As Americans cast their ballots on Tuesday, Zhirinovsky portrayed Trump as the only person able to deescalate dangerous tensions between Moscow and Washington.
“Trump wants peace, he doesn’t want war and couldn’t care less about Ukraine or Syria,” Zhirinovsky said on Russia’s state-owned channel Rossiya-24.
Others said they hoped that the U.S. and Russia could steady a relationship that has hit a rough patch.
“Two countries such as Russia and America have to be friends regardless of anything,” said Sergei, a 45-year-old unemployed resident of Moscow. He refused to give his last name to an American media outlet.
Some, like 26-year-old cook Artyom Telegin, remained skeptical.
The U.S. will "continue the policies they have, and I think isolating Russia is a priority for America,” he said.
Russia’s relations with America have reached the lowest point since the Soviet era after Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea peninsula in 2014 and the involvement in the Donbass conflict in eastern Ukraine. Moscow endorsed the pro-Russian rebels and allegedly sent troops to their aid — a charge the Kremlin denies.
The White House has imposed sanctions on Russian officials and industries, and accused the government of hacking various U.S. targets during the election campaign.
Trump, in contrast, has talked about recognizing Crimea’s annexation and praised Putin for his high approval ratings, which remain above 80 percent.
The Russian leadership appeared mostly heartened by Clinton’s defeat. The State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, greeted the news of Trump’s victory with an ovation.
Putin said Wednesday he hoped Trump’s win would allow to “bring relations back on a sustainable track.”
“We understand it's a hard road, but we're ready to walk our part of it,” he said in televised remarks.
But at the end of the day, many Muscovites were on the same page as pensioner Lyudmila, who would only give her first name.
Lyudmila said she just wished the elections "would make the people of America happy."