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Jan 31, 2021
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Russia as an enemy is convenient for both democrats and republicans

Russia as an enemy is convenient for both democrats and republicans

Photo: Zuma / TASS

For four years of presidency Donald Trump the number of Americans who believe that Russia is not only an unfriendly country, but also an enemy of the United States has increased. These are the data of the latest Economist / YouGov poll.

The perception of Russia as an “enemy” of the United States has grown by 11% since April 2017. Now 38% of the respondents adhere to this point of view, which was not the case four years ago. The opinion of the Republicans has especially changed: 40% of the party’s supporters call Russia the enemy, which is 16% more than in 2017.

Republicans’ views on Russia have deteriorated sharply over the past month: at the end of November, only 28% of Republican Party supporters considered Russia an enemy of the United States.

In particular, the respondents consider Russia to be guilty of cyberattacks, the scale of which is still not fully known, on American government and other structures.

Perceptions of Russia are slowly changing despite Trump’s desire to mend relations with the Russian president Vladimir Putin… Republicans usually agree with Trump: for example, according to the poll, most of them believe that the outcome of the November presidential election was influenced by rigging. However, many do not agree with Trump on this issue, but agree with the point of view of the majority, which believes that Russia is responsible for the cyberattack.

President-elect Joe Bidenthe YouGov publication says that Russia will have to deal with in less than a month, and Americans, including his voters, are not particularly optimistic about what he can do. Biden’s supporters believe that he can improve relations with China and Iran, but relations with North Korea will not change in one direction or the other. But speaking of Russia, 43% of Biden’s voters believe relations will deteriorate. Only one in four hopes for an improvement in Russian-American relations under the Biden administration.

In general, the respondents have a negative view of the prospects for US relations with all four countries.

Researcher, Center for North American Studies, IMEMO RAS, Ph.D. in Political Science Sergey Kislitsyn believes that the attitude of Americans towards Russia has really worsened, but it is not at all about Trump, but about rush, when they said that Russian interference in the American elections contributed to Trump’s victory.

– It was written by the Democrats. They are always more active in terms of press and media than Republicans. Major American media such as New York Times and Washington Postare still more pro-democratic, so it is logical that due to their work it has worsened. Moreover, we did not have and do not have any positive agenda and, apparently, will not.

There is no political middle in America, there is polarization, which political scientists talk about a lot. There are the Left – Democrats, the Right – Republicans, and the center, which has always been a stronghold of stability, is now quite blurred and there are not so many representatives of it. Accordingly, against the background of polarization, Russia is a convenient agenda for mutual accusations: that Russia is helping Trump; that Obama could not cope with Putin, therefore Crimea, Donbass and so on happened, and Trump will cope, because he is tougher. Russia is a convenient way to blame each other, to increase its own rating, it is a good enemy image.

China cannot be like that, if only because of the very strong economic interdependence. Trade turnover between Russia and the United States is extremely low, even though it is growing. According to statistics, in their foreign trade, we borrow less than 1 percent, so we have no special significance. And since we are a major nuclear power, it is very convenient to scare us.

SP: – But investigations of cyber attacks, including those affecting the election results, did not find a Russian trace. Why do Americans continue to believe this?

– The influence of the press as well. But the cybersphere is quite new. There is, for example, an arms control system, although it is now being eroded, but we hope that START III will still be extended. But there are no similar mechanisms of regulation, control, norms of behavior in cyberspace. And as long as there is no such thing, there is no transparency in these matters, then accusations can and will appear, because they have not yet learned how to regulate it.

I hope that in the coming years we will come to a modus vivendi on this issue and then these accusations will be less. In the meantime, from the point of view of the behavior of the parties, this sphere is wild.

“SP”: – Biden’s supporters believe that relations with China and Iran under his administration may improve. Are these expectations justified?

– I would not say that they will definitely improve with China. China is becoming a systemic enemy of the United States. And this is a very new challenge, because if the Soviet Union was a military-political threat, then China is an economic and technological threat, and a technological one, not from the point of view of ballistic missiles, but from the point of view of computers, 5G networks, and so on. This is a high-tech, high-cost area, and the United States has never faced such a competitor before in its history.

There may be attempts to improve US relations with China, but China in the coming years and, I believe, decades, will be a serious systemic opponent of the US.

With regard to Iran, it should be remembered that the Iranian nuclear deal was presented by President Barack Obama as a major achievement of his administration. Against the backdrop of the crisis in Ukraine, the failure of the reset of Russian-American relations was a positive moment, because all parties, including Russia, were able to come to a regime of control of the Iranian nuclear program. It was important. The Republicans and Trump’s entourage had a fundamentally different position, because in recent years they have shifted to a pro-Israel position, and the Democrats, on the contrary. Trump believed that one cannot trust the dictatorial regime in Iran and conclude treaties with them. Biden will try to play this off as a major achievement and an example of how the United States can maintain a responsible leadership position in the region, including helping to normalize Iran’s foreign policy behavior by involving it in common affairs. I think the United States will try to return to this. Given that Iran is under increased sanctions and the economy is bad there, it will be interested in working with the United States, despite its ideological positions, if the result is the lifting of sanctions.

“SP”: – Are there any prospects for improving Russian-American relations under Biden?

– We do not have an agenda as such. There is Ukraine, and this is a very sore subject and clearly not about joint cooperation. There is Belarus, which is also not about our cooperation. There is Nord Stream, on which we also cannot cooperate, because it is a very highly competitive environment, and the Americans want to enter the European natural gas market.

And there is the extension of strategic offensive arms – the only one where we can cooperate. And maybe the Biden administration, very hypothetically, will consider returning to the Open Skies Treaty.

We traditionally work with the Americans in the field of arms control, we have no other real areas of cooperation, they are all cut, closed, limited, including by sanctions. Otherwise, we have a very low interdependence, the parties practically do not cooperate with each other.

If you look, starting from the 19th century, when our diplomatic relations began, then we had nothing to cooperate with all this time. Fewer than 10 American merchant ships called Russian ports every year in the 19th century. It is not the volume of trade and interdependence that somehow attracts countries to each other.

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