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RIA Novosti
November 4, 2004

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti political commentator Vladimir Simonov) - Ordinary people in Russia reacted to George Bush's reelection with moderately optimistic feelings, but the top state officials and the political elite were clearly satisfied. The average Russian accepts Bush as an old acquaintance. Nearly every Russian, from old men to school students, knows his name, but surveys have shown that barely one-third of the respondents have ever heard about John Kerry.

Here is what a caller told a Moscow radio station on Tuesday: "We do not know anything about Kerry. He is a dark horse who surfaced only before the elections. And Bush is a good president, from the viewpoint of Russia. We know what he does and how. He deals with terrorists toughly. Of course, America has sustained losses in Iraq, but war is war."

This is not at all what a state official would have said. But ordinary Russians have always liked Mr. Bush's outward simplicity set off by some external polish of Mr. Kerry. The former is "our sort of guy" for Russians, especially in agricultural regions. They are glad that an American who they understand better than his Democratic opponent has reconfirmed his tenancy of the White House.

On the other hand, some common Russians have a different view of the winner. "Some of my compatriots view George Bush as a cowboy who does not care for others, a man who does what he wants," said Fyodor Lukyantsev, a prominent political scientist from Moscow. In his opinion, the level of anti-American sentiments in Russia and Western Europe has grown in the past year or two, and the reelection of Bush may spur it on.

What common Russians and their leaders like in Mr. Bush most is that he does not try to teach Russia how it should live. But John Kerry tried to do this, with a vigor that deserves a better application. The role of the wise man who unashamedly interferes in the internal affairs of Russia, which the Democratic candidate played before the elections, openly irritated the majority of Russians. The unwanted defender of others' rights! These people welcomed Mr. Kerry's defeat as proof of their correctness by a Higher Instance.

The atmosphere of satisfaction is even deeper in the Kremlin and all other high state offices. To paraphrase Vladimir Putin's words, international terrorists have not defeated the anti-terrorism coalition by overthrowing the reelection of the US president. As a result, the magic of the Putin-Bush relationship will continue for another four years. History has given the two presidents a chance to finish their second terms with a strategic partnership between their countries.

Moscow now views the immediate future more pragmatically. Mr. Putin need not fear Bush's attempts to limit, let alone prevent, his actions in Russia and post-Soviet territories. Bilateral relations will not be made directly dependent on Washington's attitude to Mr. Putin's methods of developing democracy in Russia - which Mr. Kerry would have tried to do had he won the election.

The second Bush administration will most probably give the green light and even speed up the implementation of Russia's dream - accession to the WTO. With Mr. Kerry in the White House, the probability would have been small. The Democratic leader enjoys the support of the Motion Picture Association of America, a powerful lobby that is fighting tooth and nail for intellectual property rights. And support is an expensive commodity.

One can assume, with a great degree of certainty, that the US stand on the issue of Russian WTO accession would have become much harsher under President Kerry. It is a sad fact that the Russian market is swamped with counterfeit CDs, DVDs and computer programs, which is the main complaint of WTO members to Moscow.

The victory of Bush - or Kerry, for that matter - will hardly have a major effect on bilateral economic relations. Mutual trade is too insignificant ($11 billion) to keenly react to the zigzags of big-time politics, even if one of them brings a new tenant to the White House.

Some of the Republicans' economic preferences are playing into the hands of Moscow. I mean the traditional interest of the Republican elephant for the oil sector. In this sense, Bush's second presidential term will revive the hopes of Russian businessmen for US investment in LNG factories and prompt construction of the trunk pipeline to Murmansk. These projects are undertaken with the sole purpose of satiating, even if partially, America's energy thirst.

And one more good thing for Russia: Oil prices will hardly fall now, say local experts. The restless and aggressive policy of the Republican president in the Middle and Near East and his tireless persecution of terrorists will most probably keep the world oil market in a state of permanent stress. The oil producing "axis of evil" countries will keep the hand on the tap, turning it off at the first signs of US threats. As a result, the Russian budget can hope for a steady inflow of petrodollars.

In short, President George Bush suits Russia simply because he is the good old George Bush.