While Donald Trump is struggling with his popularity here at home, he can at least now boast about being the most discussed person in Russian media last week.
This honor usually goes to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and this is the first time since 2011 that Putin was not the most discussed person, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.
Trump was mentioned 202,000 times by the Russian press in January. Putin placed second, with 147,700 mentions, according to Interfax’s news analytics database SCAN.
Two other Americans appeared in the top 10 list: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Obama managed third place, with 61,155 mentions, and Clinton came in seventh, with 23,843 mentions.
To be fair, Putin isn’t the only Russian leader who normally dominates the list. Then-President Dmitry Medvedev topped the list from 2008 to 2011, the years of his short-lived and largely forgotten presidency.
Citizens around the world are fascinated — and in some cases alarmed — by Trump, but Russians have particular reason to follow his every utterance: the new president’s jarringly pro-Russian beliefs and comments.
Trump has given Russians reason to like him
Trump has repeatedly praised Putin as a “strong leader” and a vital potential ally in the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups around the world. The new president has derided NATO as “obsolete” and hinted that he wouldn’t come to the defense of Eastern European allies if they were invaded by Russia. He also recently suggested — to the consternation of leading Republicans and Democrats — that he was prepared to lift the sanctions the Obama administration slapped on Putin after Russia sent troops into Ukraine and annexed Crimea.
Trump has also changed the way Americans see Russia. Vox’s Zack Beauchamp reported that Republicans are friendlier toward Putin’s administration, and Democrats are more hostile, than they have been in more than a decade:
A July 2014 poll by YouGov found that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a -66 approval rating among Republicans; in November 2016, that number was -10 — a 55 percentage point increase, at a time when Putin’s government was slaughtering civilians and American-backed rebels in Syria.
Putin doesn’t have many Western admirers given his invasions of foreign countries and brutal crackdown on dissent at home. Trump remains one of them. With Russian media largely controlled by the Kremlin, you could understand why Putin would want to give his new friend the largest microphone possible.