How Russians View Americans

Since the later part of 2016, an evolving and growing anti-Russia sentiment has taken over the narrative in the United States with many in America (and much of the West for that matter) getting a sense that a dictatorship has overtaken the nascent democratic changes in the former Soviet Union that first appeared with Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness).  What those of us who live in the West rarely hear discussed is how Russian society views the United States.  A recent survey by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs in affiliation with the Levada Analytical Center in Moscow looks at several key issues, comparing the current state of Russians’ opinion on the United States to the current state of Americans’ opinion on Russia  and how these opinions have morphed over the past year.

Let’s start with this question:

Do you think that US-Russian relations will change/have changed after the election of President Donald Trump and, if so, in what way?”

The question was asked in both January 2017 and December 2017

Here are the results from January 2017, just as Donald Trump took office:

Improve significantly/somewhat – 46 percent

Haven’t changed – 29 percent

Worsen somewhat/significantly – 10 percent

Here are the results from December 2017 after Donald Trump had been in office for nearly a year:

Improve significantly/somewhat – 14 percent

Haven’t changed – 51 percent

Worsen somewhat/significantly – 28 percent

It is quite apparently that the optimism shown by Russians at the beginning of the Trump White House have been dashed with a nearly tripling of the percentage of Russians who feel that relations between the two nations have worsened somewhat or worsened significantly.

Here is a graphic showing the percentage of Russians that have a favourable viewpoint of the United States and how it has changed over the past three decades:

As you can see, since the end of the Cold War, Russians’ antipathy towards the United States has rarely been higher.  When asked a question about whether Russia has enemies, 66 percent of Russian respondents believed that Russia has enemies with 53 percent of those giving the United States first mention as an enemy which works out to 35 percent of the overall Russian public.  By way of comparison, in June 2017 found that 52 percent of Americans defined Russia as an adversary, up from 46 percent in January 2017.  Oddly enough, only 35 percent of Russians describe U.S. power and influence as a critical threat to Russia with only 24 percent viewing NATO as a critical threat.

With the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, let’s look at how Russians feel about America’s influence on Russia’s domestic affairs and international power as shown in this question:

To what extent do you think that the United States tries to influence domestic affairs in Russia?

A great deal – 36 percent

A fair amount – 43 percent

When Americans are asked the same question, here is their response:

A great deal – 13 percent

A fair amount – 42 percent

In contrast, only 31 percent of Russians believe that their own nation tries to influence domestic affairs in the United States.  This compares to 69 percent of Americans who believe that Russia tries to influence the domestic affairs of the United States with 74 percent believing that Russia is actively working to undermine American influence and power.

When asked if the United States is trying to influence Russia’s domestic affairs, 78 percent of Russians agree and when asked if the United States is trying to undermine Russia’s international influence and power, 81 percent of Russians agree.

Lastly, with the evolution of the unipolar global power structure, let’s look at how Russians and Americans look at Russia’s role in the world:

As you can see, a very significant percentage of respondents from both Russia and the United States believe that Russia is playing a more important role in global geopolitics than it did ten years ago with a relatively small minority of Russians and Americans believing that Russia is playing a less important role today than it did ten years ago.  Interestingly, 47 percent of Americans think that the United States is less important on the global stage with only 22 percent believing that America is more important today than it was a decade ago. 

This fascinating analysis gives us an interesting snapshot of the Russian viewpoint of the United States.  It is apparent that any hope of improving relations between the two nations after the election of what appeared to be a relatively pro-Putin Donald Trump have evaporated, thanks, in large part, to the anti-Russia narrative proposed by Washington and propagated by the mainstream media.

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