Trust Issues: The USA and Russia

President Obama meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (NYT)President Barack Obama went to Russia earlier this week and stated that the US wanted a “strong Russia.” I’m assuming he meant economically because historically the US has never wanted a “strong” Russian anything, except for maybe for them all to take a strong drink of vodka and politely fall into dissarray. Let’s face it … most America’s are still wary of the Russians due to the Cold War and most were happy that we came out on top of that deal. A lot of Americans like us as the sole remaining superpower and get antsy at any kind of “strong Russia” talk.

In a statement, Gallup said a review of its 2009 data shows that 53 per cent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Russia. At the same time 34 per cent of Russians negatively assess the performance of the leadership of the United States, it said.

More after the jump.

Here’s Obama’s full quote:

America wants a strong, peaceful, and prosperous Russia. This belief is rooted in our respect for the Russian people, and a shared history between our nations that goes beyond competition …

There is the twentieth-century view that the United States and Russia are destined to be antagonists, and that a strong Russia or a strong America can only assert themselves in opposition to one another. And there is a nineteenth-century view that we are destined to vie for spheres of influence, and that great powers must forge competing blocs to balance one another. These assumptions are wrong.

Now if by “respect” he means “fear” and “shared history” he means “tensioned-filled passive-aggression,” I’m totally in agreement there. We’ve got TONS of that. Because, let’s be honest, the US and Russia haven’t played on the same team since we beat the Nazis in World War II. We ended the war of wars only to enter a series of proxy wars with the then USSR over who would rule the world.

I do like that we’re not necessarily antagonizing the Russians anymore. I didn’t quite understand the Bush Administration’s Russian strategy — which involved a gut check that former President Vladimir Putin was a good guy (ahem … no), trying to plant missiles in Poland (they were for Iran, Bush swore!) and Condi Rice, Russian expert, managing to do a whole lot of nothing whenever Sir Pooty-Poot got all huffy and puffy and threatened to reignite our long, national pastime of Russian-hating. So anything is better than the mixed signals we gave off before, but chalk me up in the corner of folks who still don’t 100 percent trust Russia, mostly because they have pretty much every right to be kind of pissed at us.

All we did was stand by and fiddle when their economy collapsed under Perostrioka. We got a lot of good laughs off drunk ol’ Boris Yeltsin. All we ever cared about was who was minding their arms. Then there were the proxy wars — Oh, the proxy wars! Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan. I still don’t know why the Russians wanted Afghanistan, but we helped made sure it was as unpleasant an experience as possible (and laid the ground work for our own later troubles with the country).

We’re two countries who’ve been tring to one-up and once-over each other on the sly for decades, dancing on the edge of the nuclear knife. Even though the threat of us destroying the world is dunzo for now, the lingering distrust is still there. So if you missed Obama’s historic speech in Russia, I’d suggest you give it the once over. It was a great speech. But I can’t say it made me feel any better. Our improved American-Russian relations is something that has to be more show and less tell.

6 thoughts on “Trust Issues: The USA and Russia

  1. Putin looks like a staight gangsster in that picture…he ain’t paying Obama no attention at all.

  2. My eyebrow will continue to be raised until proven otherwise. Many of these countries (including ours) are one snide comment away from blowing up the earth. 😐

  3. We would be wise to never underestimate Vladimir Putin. He is not a clown, he has a very keen analytical mind. If anything, he seems to be gauging the President.

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