Having just returned from a trip to Russia, I am pleased to report that the Russian people and the officialdom that I encountered displayed none of the vitriol towards Americans that I half expected as a response to the vilifying of Moscow and all its works that pervades the U.S. media and Establishment. To be sure, many Russians I spoke with were quick to criticize the Trump Administration for its hot and cold performance vis-à-vis the bilateral ties to Moscow while also expressing mystification over why the relationship had gone south so quickly, but this anger over foreign policy did not necessarily translate into contempt for the American people and way of life that characterized the Soviet period. At least not yet.
Somewhat to my surprise, ordinary Russians were also quick to openly criticize President Vladimir Putin for his autocratic tendencies and his willingness to continue to tolerate corruption, but everyone I spoke to also conceded that he had generally acted constructively and had greatly improved life for ordinary people. Putin remains wildly popular.
One question that came up frequently was “Who is driving the hostility towards Russia?” I responded that the answer is not so simple and there are a number of constituencies that, for one reason or another, need a powerful enemy to justify policies that would otherwise be unsustainable. Defense contractors need a foe to justify their existence while congressmen need the contractors to fund their campaigns. The media needs a good fearmongering story to help sell itself and the public also is accustomed to having a world in which terrible threats lurk just below the horizon, thereby increasing support for government control of everyday life to keep everyone “safe.”
And then there are the neocons.
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