Donald Trump in Moscow?

“If Trump does jump into the Moscow real estate frenzy, he and his deal would make Lenin, still mummified, submerged in glass and on dis­play inside the square, rise with rage”


Trump Sees (Red) Square

If Donald Trump has his way, the Kremlin towers will soon have a new neighbor. Trump Towers, just beside Red Square.

The Donald’s mouth has often been bigger than his bank account. But if Russian news re­ports are on the money, Trump’s first foreign real estate ventures includes plans to renovate the Hotel Moskva, a landmark-turned-to-seed Stalinist structure off one of the most famous squares in the world. A Trump team was in Moscow months ago to assess the venture. A top Moscow city gov­ernment official told Moscow News that the hotel deal was just about complete.

For now, Trump is being unusually — ­though self-servingly — silent about the deal. However, his spokeswoman did not deny it. “It’s too soon to talk about it,” said Norma Foerderer, Trump’s long-term spokeswoman.

Moscow’s first vice premier, Vladimir Resin, told the Russian news agency Interfax that Trump and the Moscow city government had “practically reached agreement” on the deal. Moscow News described the hotel deal as com­plete. Trump will apparently renovate the hotel and turn the top floor into luxury apartments. Russians, the newspaper proudly reported, will be hired to carry out the reconstruction, “excluding the finishing touches.”

If Trump does jump into the Moscow real estate frenzy, he and his deal would make Lenin, still mummified, submerged in glass and on dis­play inside the square, rise with rage. Trump, who in some ways became a symbol for 1980s greed and American expansionism, would enter the post-Communist real estate market as anti-American sentiment in Russia is on the rise. Trump visited Moscow last November, the same month a pioneering American cowboy capitalist, Paul Tamm, was gunned down out­side the luxury Radisson-Slavyanskaya Hotel, which he helped create — and where President Clinton used to stay.

In Moscow, Trump would become just one of many brash entrepreneurs in a country where the lines between government, gangsters, and business are inextricably linked. Trump may also finally meet his real estate match: the noto­rious Moscow mayor-mogul, Yuri Luzhkov.

The Trump team sent to Moscow formally assessed the cost of fixing up the decrepit Hotel Moskva, an imposing gray and gloomy building. Trump has been negotiating with Brooke Group Ltd., a Miami-based holding company that owns Liggett Group Inc., of L&M, Lark, Eve, and Chesterfield cigarette fame. Nicotine is big business in Russia, and such brands are giving Philip Morris hefty competition.

If Trump succeeds, he will be biting into a solid chunk of Soviet history. Hotel Moskva’s lopsided towers are a tribute to Stalin’s totali­tarianism. When the architect showed Stalin two different plans, legend has it, the dictator approved both. Terrified to displease him, the architect complied; hence the hotel’s asymmet­rical design.

Russian newspapers have reported Tsar Trump’s deal as clinched. The renovation is expected to take 18 months to complete.

In the early 1990s, as Communism was collapsing, the Hotel Moskva was one of the most popular expatriate hangouts in town. It boasted one of Moscow’s only non-Soviet restaurants, known as the Spanish bar, where spies, business-people, reporters, and other unsavory types used to gather for sangria, garlic trout, imported chorizo, and special-order paella. Patrons were (willingly or otherwise) serenaded by guitar-playing gypsies and Cubans who came to Russia as students and stayed. ❖

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 5, 2020