Keep the Auld Enemy alive!
America and Russia: a classical love-hate relationship. At least, from the Russian side. In the Soviet times, America was something like a snake of temptation; officially bad but sooo attractive – movies, music, jeans, cars, even chewing gum! The American lifestyle, in its Russian interpretation, became iconic.
The propaganda pictured America as an enemy but the Russians, mostly, liked the country and its people. Even the propaganda was saying that Americans are not bad, it is the political system to blame. This is why, with the end of Communism, there was such a great sympathy for the United States. And, I think, it went both ways as Gorby charmed the Americans.
But as time went by, the attitude has been changing. To Americans, Russia has become more like a mafia state (which is partly true). Now it is more complicated in Russia, too: to that love-hate brew you should add some more ingredients, such as jealousy and envy, admiration and contempt. A very strange mix.
There was a joke recently in Russia – if your apartment building entrance is full of trash or your pension
is so small or, maybe, your kids should’ve done better at school… Who is to blame? It is Obama to blame! Not yourself, of course. And not the Russian government. And it turned out to work just fine!
So around the mid-2000s, the Kremlin propaganda was back in its ways: it is America to blame for all our problems. It is America that wants to destroy Russia. Blah-blah-blah. The Auld Enemy is finally back!
Now, according to the polls, most of the Russians genuinely believe that the United States, again, is the Big Satan making harm to Mother-Russia. Well, if you only watch the Russian TV, then yes.
I believe we are natural allies, at least, not enemies. Yes, we have a few things to fight about but many more to cooperate. Historically there are many examples of it, not just WWII.
In 1867 Russia sold Alaska to the United States, its ally at the time, so as not to give it up to the British. During the 1990s America could have completely destroyed Russia if it wanted to (the nightmare of Russia’s America haters). Instead, there was humanitarian aid that really did help Russian households to get by.
Back in the 1920s, American Relief Administration was distributing food and medical aid to up to 10,000,000 people in Russia, both children and adults, during the famine caused by the Bolsheviks. The program helped to save countless lives between 1921 and 1923. Not a very well-known fact to the Russian audience, by the way. And locally brewed America’s haters would hate to acknowledge it.
I am sure though that as long as the current Russian regime stays in power, Vladimir Putin will continue on his vicious policy. He needs somebody to blame for his own multiple setbacks with the economy. He
also wants to get back to the Yalta model dividing the world with America: the man from the Kremlin still living his Cold War dreams…
The only problem is that it is not 1945.
So he has no choice but to keep the Auld Enemy alive.
A Secret, Shard History
It’s funny how nations shape their own histories. Consider the US & UK… we both believe we won WWII but the truth is eighty percent of German losses took place on the Eastern front.
Most Russians have a vague knowledge of Lend Lease but don’t understand the role it played in that war, a war they believe they fought – almost alone.
Russians are shown Great Patriotic War movies on TV almost every week. These films feature cardboard villains who do everything but tie hapless young ladies up on the tracks. Channel One should be ashamed of their role in keeping that nasty business fresh.
It wasn’t always this way. I cannot see what Sergey has written by agreement (we all want to share only our thoughts) but I’m sure he will share a small slice of an amazing history. The US and RU were so close that we, the Americans, ran to the Czar’s defense when things got ugly. It’s an alliance that the Communists could never get past. The echoes of that relationship shaped the twentieth century more than most of us understand.
The two nations share far more than the citizens of both know. We are both socially to the right of Europe, we both have a strong religious outlook, support a strong military, and we are both ferociously proud of past deeds.
So the question becomes, how can this natural alliance be sat right?
To be honest, I don’t think it can while Putin remains in power. Another thing the Russians and Americans share is that we make convenient villains. President of a small country with a bad economy? Just blame the Americans – yeah, those dogs are trying to invade us. Need to rally a militia in Iraq? Those damn Russians did it! Insert problem here… Strongman of a certain, huge country straddling Europe & Asia? It’s the damn Americans! It works, trust me, I live in the Near East and I have seen it in person.
This brings us back to Russia & America… sorry, no long walks on the beach in your future.
American/Russian relations –
A British viewpoint.
I was brought up in an era of almost complete distrust between East and West. As a young boy, I assumed America was the good guy, all rock’n’roll and cool, and Russia the bad, the naughty, the distant and the mysterious.
The Cold War had started soon after WW2. By the sixties, a fully blown war between America and Russia looked just around the corner.
Eventually, by the time the nineties had arrived, the Soviet Union had been disbanded, and relations had thawed sufficiently for Gorbachev to announce that the Cold War was over.
And that should have been that.
Except it wasn’t.
Instead, today, tensions are slowly getting back to 1960 levels, and the rhetoric being tossed around by both sides is doing no-one any good.
So how have we come to this mess? And what can be done to ease the tension?
Maybe you have to blame the West. They steadfastly refused to believe Russia had in fact changed – instead, they assumed that the new Russia was in fact the old Soviet Union with bells on – the old distrust never left the West, and Russia could quite easily claim they were hard done by.
Maybe though, it was Russia’s fault. They wanted to recreate their dominant position they held in the second half of the last century, and could not give a damn about what the West thought about their exploits, for instance, in Syria and Ukraine.
Putin is smart, Trump is stupid – and there is no evidence that either would want to, or indeed are capable of, putting together a programme that would lead to stability throughout Europe. Stability that would mean relations between the two countries could ease to 1990 levels.
So, as a Brit, I don’t care that once upon a time, these two players were good mates and supported each other.
All I see is “Cold War 2”, or the “New Cold War”….you choose the name.