Russia teems with Anti-American Venom

Megan Stack, writing in the Los Angeles Times and reporting from Moscow, documents Russia’s frenzied, pathological hatred of America and its values just in time for Barack Obama’s meeting with Putin, a timely reminder for the new president of the nature of the evil he faces:

When President Obama visits the Kremlin, he will face the task of trying to reset relations with a government that has built its power base and defined itself by its anti-American, neo-Cold War stance.

It’s an opportune moment for the United States to warm up a frosty relationship. Moscow could help on some of Washington’s most intransigent foreign policy troubles, including Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea. But in Russia, there is scant evidence of a desire for a fresh start.

Despite a reshuffle of power that installed Russian leader Vladimir Putin as prime minister and his career underling, Dmitry Medvedev, in the presidency, the Kremlin’s policies remain unchanged, including its habit of drumming up anti-American sentiment to bolster political power at home.

Shortly after it warmly welcomed Obama to the White House, the Kremlin lavished a $2-billion loan on the government of impoverished Kyrgyzstan, which in turn evicted the U.S. military from a base considered strategically important to the war in Afghanistan.

Orchestrated in Moscow, the power play cost the United States months of embarrassment and a rent increase of more than $40 million to persuade Kyrgyzstan to reverse its decision.

Russia risks destabilization on its borders if the war in Afghanistan further deteriorates. And on Friday, a senior official said the Kremlin would allow the U.S. to ship weapons headed for Afghanistan across Russian territory.

But analysts said Moscow still feels a compulsion to interfere with U.S. goals. Anti-Americanism, some say, has deep roots in Russia’s view of itself, its insecurities and aspirations to become a superpower once more.

“Domestic politics is very much grounded on opposition to the West,” said Denis Volkov, a researcher at Moscow’s Levada Center who has conducted polls on Russian attitudes toward America. “It’s very often used as an excuse, as a pillar of the popularity of Russian leaders and as the proof of the rebirth of Russian power.”

In Russia, cozy ties with the West are associated with the impotence, humiliation and corruption of the 1990s. Hostility, on the other hand, is considered a hallmark of strength, smacking of Soviet empire and Putin’s oil-rich ride in the presidency.

It’s not all empty posturing. There are serious, stark differences between the two countries. Russia feels both insulted and threatened by the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, created during the Cold War as a deterrent to the Soviet military, into countries along its border and U.S. plans to build a missile shield at Russia’s edge. And it is enraged by what it sees as U.S. meddling in the domestic politics of onetime client states Ukraine and Georgia.

But those issues are expected to be publicly downplayed at the summit, where the focus will be on less politically barbed agenda items: reducing nuclear stockpiles and sealing the agreement to transport lethal supplies into Afghanistan. But for Russia’s power structure, analysts say, the backdrop of hostility and distrust is unlikely to change.

“There’s no future in Russia for pro-American policy,” said Nikolai Zlobin, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the World Security Institute in Washington. “You can build your whole career based on anti-American policy — build a political career, become a famous journalist or public figure. But if you promote the idea of friendship with America, you’ll be denounced immediately.”

The Cold War is a faded relic in American memory. Now there are Iran and North Korea to worry about; a few years ago, there was Saddam Hussein. And so it is perhaps easy to forget that, in Russia, the Cold War remains a poignant and powerful idea.

Talk of current events often conveys the distinct sense that Russia is clinging to the idea of an American threat. If there is no hostility with the United States, the thinking runs, it can only mean that Russia is no longer important enough to merit it. And that’s unpalatable to Russia’s political elite.

When Russian tanks and warplanes poured over the border last summer to battle Georgian troops in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, Russian news reports ascribed the war to U.S. missteps, primarily Washington’s backing for the anti-Russian president of Georgia, a nation Moscow regards as within its rightful sphere of influence.

Russian leaders believed the U.S. had set the stage for the war when it recognized the independence of Kosovo, a former province of Serbia. Traditionally protective of Serbia’s interests, Moscow was infuriated by the move, and said it would set a precedent for other rebel republics to secede.

“We are not afraid of anything, including the prospect of a new Cold War,” Medvedev thundered last summer.

The Russian president’s rhetoric has since softened. And in the months since Vice President Joe Biden first called for the two countries to “push the reset button,” it has become clear that the Obama administration’s hopes are pinned on Medvedev.

This week, Obama accused Putin of keeping “one foot in the old ways” of the Cold War. But in their own country, the two Russian politicians are regarded as functioning in tandem — with Putin, not Medvedev, unmistakably the senior member of the duo.

When financial crisis gripped Russia last fall, Putin angrily blamed the United States, and Russian leaders held up their nation’s follow-on unemployment and bank collapses as proof that too much power was centralized in the United States. When swine flu circled the globe, Russia banned American meat imports despite their irrelevance to the epidemic.

With the advent of the Obama administration, some in the Kremlin have become nervous about the prospect of eased relations, said Andrei Kortunov, head of the New Eurasia Foundation think tank in Moscow. They half-welcome any ills that can be handily blamed on the U.S., he said.

“They are concerned that their attempts to sustain this fortress mentality in Russia will be deflated,” he said.

Almost two years ago, as Putin prepared to turn the presidency over to Medvedev in an election that cut out any serious opposition, loathing of Washington reached a new pitch of intensity in the Russian news media. The Kremlin was fretting, somewhat inexplicably, since Putin and his party enjoyed sincere popular support, that street demonstrations might erupt in the style of the government-toppling protests in Georgia and Ukraine.

In this atmosphere of heightened anxiety, a documentary called “Velvet.ru” appeared on state television to warn Russians of the threat at hand. This was the gist:

The U.S. State Department and the CIA, jealous of Russia’s vast oil, gas, timber and diamond riches, were backing anti-Kremlin activists in a bid to overthrow the government and dismantle the country.

“They’re already here on our threshold, agents and professional provocateurs, preparing for a coup in Moscow,” the narrator warned. “In American perception, this state should disappear. Russia should break into pieces.”

Sergei Markov, a ruling party lawmaker and political analyst who’s known as one of the Kremlin’s most prominent spin doctors, argues that Russia is not fundamentally anti-American. On the contrary, he says, Russian politicians are simply responding to hostile policies.

At the same time, he agreed that no Russian politician would dare to promote closer cooperation with the United States.

“It would be like somebody in the United States saying, ‘Osama is great,’ or somebody in Israel saying, ‘Hamas is great.’ “

As for the notion of resetting relations, he waved it away.

“The Kremlin doesn’t think the U.S. will change,” he said.

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12 responses to “Russia teems with Anti-American Venom

  1. Russians for the most part don’t have the information access tools nor the interest to scratch below the surface of the anti-American swill they are force fed.

    It doesn’t really matter what Russians think of America because integrating them into the West isn’t going to happen. And, it isn’t what most of them want.

    What they really ought to be focused on is how much will their Chinese overlords in their far east like them in their diminished outposts in a few generations. They aren’t thinking about that either.

    Putin delivered bread and circuses which was a good distraction for a decade. If he can keep the blame focused on the West’s ambitions to destroy Russia which works better in a xenophobic passive culture like Russia his clan will be around for awhile even in this downturn. Russians are excellent sufferers.

  2. @In this atmosphere of heightened anxiety, a documentary called “Velvet.ru” appeared on state television to warn Russians of the threat at hand.

    Check out also this “documentary”:

  3. > Moscow could help on some of Washington’s most intransigent foreign policy troubles

    Why should it, if Washington does not plan to repay that help in any way?

    > Talk of current events often conveys the distinct sense that Russia is clinging to the idea of an American threat.

    Small wonder – after American invasions of Yugoslavia in 1999 and Iraq in 2003.

  4. “Russia teems with Anti-American Venom”

    It’s quite natural after all:

    Soon after the initial bombing attack on Iraq that killed thousands of women and children, Donald Rumsfeldsaid, “It was the most compassionate bombing you’ve ever seen!”

    When he announced the U.S. air strikes against Afghanistan, President Bush Jr. said, “We’re a peaceful nation.” He went on to say, “This is the calling of the United States of America, the most free nation in the world, a nation built on fundamental values, that rejects hate, rejects violence, rejects murderers, rejects evil. And we will not tire.”

    The US Government knows they rule a nation of cowards. The government has had to spend the money to make the new war something cowards can fight. The government has decorated the troops with regalia to make them proud of themselves, further trapping them in their self-image. Talismans are added from orthodox religions and the occult to fill the soldiers with delusions of mystical strengths and an afterlife if they fall in battle. Finally, knowing that it takes courage to kill the enemy face to face, the United States government has spent vast sums of money on wonder weapons, airplanes, submarines, ultra-long range artillery, cruise missiles, and guided missiles, weapons that kill at a distance, so that those doing the killing need not have to face the reality of what they are doing.

    STOP NAZI MURDER INC. USA IN ITS QUEST FOR THEIR SELF PROCLAIMED “FULL DOMINANCE”

    USA IS BUT A RAT DRIVEN INTO THE CORNER IN ITS PARASITIC WAYS

  5. P and M are paranoid of a Rose and Orange and now Green revolutions. Every Fascist Regime needs a scapegoat. America is Russia’s scapegoat to keep the masses at bay despite P and M’s failed domestic policies. Sad really. Wouldn’t Russians be better off working closely with the US? Japan and Germany have after WWII and I’d say they are better off for it.

    • > Every Fascist Regime needs a scapegoat.

      You’re right, and therefore the USA made a scapegoat of the USSR, and then Russia. :-)

  6. RTS-“The US Government knows they rule a nation of cowards. The government has had to spend the money to make the new war something cowards can fight. The government has decorated the troops with regalia to make them proud of themselves, further trapping them in their self-image.”

    When has Russia ever stood up and fought for principle? WWII? What a joke. Soviets fought to preserve their gulags. And then after agreeing with Roosevelt and Truman to allow for free elections in Eastern Europe reneged and made them colonies of the Soviet Empire.

    Then there is North Korea, Vietnam. Afghanistan, Chechenya. Russia has been on the wrong side nearly every time. Even when they are on the right side, WWII and Gulf War I, they can’t control themselves and do the right thing until the end.

    • > to allow for free elections in Eastern Europe

      After having suffered so much during the Great Patriotic War, the USSR needed a security area to protect itself from a renewed invasion of “Western Values Promoters”. After Yalta and Potsdam, Europe enjoyed the longest period of peace in all its history. It took a nitwit like Gorby to give up all gained as a result of such bloodshed for a condescending slap on the shoulder on the part of an “American Superman”. :-(((

  7. Check out also this “documentary”:

    KGB Propaganda

  8. probablyabogusname

    the goddamn links are IN RUSSIAN!!

    for chrissakes!

  9. Eugene,

    After having suffered so much during the Great Patriotic War, the USSR needed a security area to protect itself from a renewed invasion of “Western Values Promoters”. After Yalta and Potsdam, Europe enjoyed the longest period of peace in all its history. It took a nitwit like Gorby to give up all gained as a result of such bloodshed for a condescending slap on the shoulder on the part of an “American Superman”. :-(((

    If a country needs security then it should promote democracies for its neighbors. In the last 200 years, how many Democratic countries have gone to war against each other?

    NONE.

    STALIN wanted an empire. Not security.

    • > If a country needs security then it should promote democracies for its neighbors.

      The children of Hanoi, Belgrade and Bagdad killed in the process of “democracy promotion” must be eternally grateful to their killers for having brought democracy to them. :-(((

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