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In Russia, Anti-Americanism Never Goes Out Of Style
Whereas Americans seem to barely remember the Cold War. LATimes:
"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."...
On a list of foreign policy goals, I don't think breaking up Russia ranks very high for the U.S., but that's what is driving them crazy. Maybe we should send a few spies over there just to keep the peace.