Despite widespread speculation in the US that Russian President Vladimir Putin influenced the outcome of the presidential election in favor of President- elect Donald J. Trump, well-educated Russian citizens contend that Russia had no involvement whatsoever.
Moreover, young Jewish professionals attending a Limmud FSU conference in this sleepy, snow-covered hamlet, some 50 km. outside of St. Petersburg, said on Saturday that it was Trump’s populist appeal that won the election – not Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails.
While Liza Baru, a 27-yearold designer from St. Petersburg, described Trump as “unpredictable,” she said that he was not aided by the alleged Russian hack, which exposed damaging communications from Clinton’s campaign and the DNC.
“I have heard stories about [the emails], but I don’t think that Russia had anything to do with it, or that they helped Trump win,” she said. “I think he won because the American people wanted him to be president.”
Asked what her opinion is of Trump, Baru cited his outsider status as an intriguing X-factor with respect to how he will govern.
“He is not a professional politician, and so it is interesting what he may do, because you don’t know what to expect with him,” she said.
Baru added that, because Putin favors Trump over Clinton, frosty relations between the countries may finally begin to thaw.
“I think that President Putin feels safer with president Trump than with Clinton,” she said.
Sarafima Gur, an economist and psychologist from St. Petersburg, also said that neither Putin nor his government played any role in Trump’s win.
“My opinion is that we really don’t have any interest in influencing the US election,” she said. “I’m not even sure it is a fact that Russia hacked the emails. You know, we read and see things in the media, but who knows if it is true?”
Although Gur said she believes a candidate like Trump has better odds of winning an election in Russia, and was “surprised” by his US victory, she nevertheless deemed the outcome a “straight choice.”
Asked if, as a woman, she would have preferred Clinton over Trump, who is widely considered to be misogynistic and xenophobic, Gur said no.
“I didn’t hope she would win at all,” she said. “She is too aggressive for my taste.”
Maxim Cosetets, a 43-yearold security analyst from Siberia, echoed Baru’s and Gur’s sentiments, adding that most Russians agree that their country had no role in the election’s outcome. “None of us thinks that is true,” he said dismissively.
Still, Cosetets said he believes that Trump is a far safer leader with respect to US-Russian relations and that he will help deescalate growing tensions.
“He [Trump] doesn’t want to go to war with Russia, and I think Clinton would have, because we think that she has mental problems,” he said. “He is just a clown; you know, like an entertainer. But we do not think he is truly crazy.”
Mentioning Putin’s bad image in the US, Vladimir Sevrinovsky, a 41-year-old Moscow-based journalist, said he believes Clinton’s camp misinformed the media of the purported Russian hack to compromise Trump’s candidacy.
“Any connection between Trump and Putin would have looked bad for Trump, so she tried to tie the two together,” he said.
Sevrinovsky contended that both candidates’ abundant use of character assassination ultimately canceled each other out, leading to a fair vote.
“It was a competition between the two sides using ‘black PR,’ and Clinton used a lot against Trump and he used a lot against her,” he said. “Because it’s politics, and it’s always bad.”
Tatiana Liberman, 33, a construction company manager from St. Petersburg, said she was unaware of any connection between Trump and Putin, but said she believes that Trump is a far more complex figure than the US media portrayed him to be.
“I think that there is more to him than black and white,” she said. “Maybe he is more complicated than he appears.”
Inna Kunina, an English professor from St. Petersburg, said Julian Assange, who published hundreds of hacked emails from Clinton, is clearly to blame.
“There is no doubt that a lot of misinformation was used for political reasons to convince the US electorate that there was a link to Trump and Russian cyber attacks, but as we know from WikiLeaks, it had nothing to do in any way with Russia,” she said.
Kunina added: “I doubt that the Russian government in any way helped Donald Trump, or interfered in the election.”