Fewer Russians ‘like’ the US, but still ‘friends’ – poll

Are Russians rethinking their opinion of the United States? AFP Photo / Alexander Nemenov
The opinion of average Russians to the United States is going through a steep downward correction, according to the results of a national poll.

­The number of Russians who reported to “like the United States” has dropped from 67 per cent to 46 per cent since autumn 2011, while the number of people who expressed their dislike of the US jumped from 27 per cent to 38 per cent over the same period, analysts from the Levada Center reported.

The absolute majority of the respondents (68 per cent) said the United States tended to put pressure on Russia; just 17 per cent believe the US treats Russia with respect.

The opinion poll was held in September in 130 towns and cities in 45 regions across Russia.

Despite Washington’s proclaimed “democracy building” efforts around the globe, which have a strange tendency to rely on the involvement of the US military, Russians are increasingly skeptical of the message.

Some 43 per cent of respondents said the United States is playing a negative role in the world, while 10 per cent said its role is positive; 47 per cent said they were undecided.

Meanwhile, 67 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that the United States "was hypocritically trying to force other countries to obey international law while itself failing to uphold the same principles."

Although the poll did not discuss the geopolitical situation between Russia and the United States, it seems that recent events have had an impact on Russian sentiments about Washington.

Despite a proclaimed “reset” in relations between Moscow and Washington, a number of pressing issues have some predicting a return to Cold War conditions. One such hurdle is the US-built missile defense system that NATO is building in Eastern Europe. Moscow has warned that without some sort of cooperation or agreement on the system the world may be heading for another arms race.

Despite such a dire prospect, US and NATO officials remain intransigent, refusing to even provide Moscow with a written guarantee that the system will not be aimed at Russian territory.     

Thus, it should come as no surprise that a mere 14 per cent of the Russian respondents agreed that the United States "was setting a good example and always obeyed the law."

Meanwhile, Russia’s attitude to the European Union has changed, although less dramatically in comparison with the US: 63 per cent of the respondents said they “like the EU,” while 18 per cent responded negatively. The correlation was 67 per cent to 18 per cent the previous year.

At the same time, the number of Russians favorably inclined toward Ukraine and Belarus is on the rise. Seventy-four per cent said they “like Ukraine,” compared to 69 per cent a year ago, while a full 80 per cent “like Belarus” compared to 75 per cent last year.

Despite claims in the Western media and academia that Russia wants to “restore empire,” the poll suggests otherwise: 60 per cent said that Russia and Ukraine "should be independent but friendly countries, with open borders and without visas or customs."
One-fifth suggested visa and custom controls between the nations should be retained, while 14 per cent believe that Russia and Ukraine should merge into a single state.

Not all of Russia’s neighbors, however, enjoyed such glowing assessments.

The number of Russians who have negative feelings for Georgia, for example, has grown from 43 per cent in November 2011 to 46 per cent. At the same time, however, the number of people expressing positive sentiments for the Caucasian nation has also grown from 39 per cent to 44 per cent.

Robert Bridge, RT