If you’re an American shopper in Moscow who simply must have that leather bomber jacket with an airbrushed image of U.S. and Soviet troops converging on Nazi Germany, Friday’s your lucky day.
The Russian Army’s flagship retail store is offering a 10 percent discount for all Americans to celebrate Donald Trump’s inauguration. For a T-shirt of Vladimir Putin in fatigues, the saving works out to about a buck. It was conspicuously empty early Friday.
The store, located across the street from the U.S. embassy, hailed Inauguration Day with posters showing a fist-pumping Trump clad in red power tie under a banner featuring the army’s iconic red-star logo.
“Trump is a builder and we respect that in Russia,” said Ekaterina Korotkova, an adviser to the general director of Voentorg, the military contractor that manages the store. “And if he helps us market to foreigners, even better.”
Putin’s military isn’t alone is seeking to tap into what polls show is widespread hope among the population that the billionaire-turned-politician will help end the worst crisis in relations since the Cold War.
The local Burger King franchise plans to roll out the Trump Burger, a Whopper topped with hot sauce and jalapeños, while a chain of eateries in St. Petersburg is already selling the triple-patty Trump Tower. Craftsmen in the Ural Mountains city of Chelyabinsk even minted a 1-kilogram silver coin that features the new leader’s profile under the inscription, “In Trump We Trust.”
Maria Olsen, spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Moscow, said the army’s promotion led her to check out the store for the first time. She picked up a few scarves.
State television, which will broadcast Trump’s swearing-in live from Washington, has been giving the incoming president the Putin treatment. One broadcaster is promoting its coverage with a photo-shopped image of Trump appearing to darn the U.S. flag.
However, Putin won’t be popping champagne during the inauguration, preferring instead a traditional jump into icy water to celebrate the Russian Orthodox Epiphany, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC’s Hardtalk program in an interview.
While many Americans blame alleged Kremlin hacking in part for Trump’s historic upset, popular expectations in Russia have never been higher for an incoming administration. Trump has repeatedly praised Putin’s leadership and questioned his predecessor’s strategy of imposing sanctions over Russia’s foreign activities.
But the public optimism that Kremlin propagandists are promoting isn’t shared by the country’s leadership, where there’s increasing concern that Trump’s personal affinity for Putin won’t be enough to overcome bipartisan distrust in Washington, according to four senior Russian officials.
Some prominent Putin allies, including Andrey Kostin, who runs state-run lender VTB Group, are even publicly joking about the issue.
Kostin used his appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week to urge U.S. investors to give Russian stocks the kind of Trump “bump” the U.S. market has enjoyed since the election. Americans think “Russia helped Mr. Trump get the job, but our stocks are not growing,” Kostin complained with a smile.