The Russian media had been preparing for Hillary Clinton for weeks, if not months. On state television channels and news outlets, the former secretary of state was routinely derided as a corrupt, anti-Russian war monger. Some Russian media even went so far as to depict her as possibly insane, and out to start World War III.
In a country where the leader is never in question, Russian politicians and pundits were perhaps among the most shocked spectators of the 2016 presidential election when Donald Trump emerged as the likely victor in the morning hours here on Wednesday. Clinton would win, Russians believed, because she is part of the elite. And the elite always steals the election.
In the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, lawmakers reportedly erupted into wild applause upon hearing the news. Vladimid Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) – a nationalist outfit that espouses policies neither liberal nor democratic – reportedly organized a party. Zhirinovsky dropped about $1,560 on food and refreshments.
A senior official from President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, Sergei Zheleznyak, also chimed in on Clinton's loss. The American people, he said, were "tired of artificial confrontation and imposed globalization," before going on to blame the results on Clinton's "bellicose rhetoric, rabid anti-Russian hysteria, [and] the desire to dictate America's will to the world."
Higher up the echelons of power, the celebration was more restrained. Possibly because, for the first time, the Kremlin has to reckon with a Trump presidency. Predicting his foreign policy will undoubtedly consume Moscow for the next few months. Clinton worried them, but as far as the local foreign policy elite was concerned, they knew what they were getting.
In a telegram sent to Trump on Wednesday, Putin expressed hope that the incoming U.S. president would prove a constructive partner in pulling U.S.-Russia relations back from the brink. Trump’s election, the telegram read, should "lead to constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington based on equality and respect."
Later in the afternoon, at a ceremony at the Kremlin for foreign ambassadors, Putin spoke of Trump's promises on the campaign trail to restore relations with Russia.
"We understand and acknowledge that will be a difficult process, considering how far relations have deteriorated," he said. "As I have repeated multiple times, this is not [Russia’s] fault."