Why can’t we be friends with Russia?

Dear Reader,

Even if you’re not that into politics, you probably know that the U.S. and Russia are not on the best of terms. Despite attempts from Bush, Obama, and Trump, the United States cannot seem to simply “be friends” with Russia. Cooperation has and does continue to happen in some spheres, but historically, on a whole, the U.S. and Russia do not easily get along.

Now that I am in Moscow again, I can explore some of these questions further and hear Russians’ views firsthand about the situation.

There are a few notable divides that influence the Russian opinion, two important ones are westernization and age. Russians who have spent significant periods of time away from Russia in the West tend to have more western attitudes. I was speaking to a Russian recent college graduate and he was telling me that students at his university who had studied abroad in the West (meaning Europe and North America) tended to have more liberal views. While, students who studied exclusively domestically tended towards the views of the Russian establishment. This is of course, not a rule. I met some Russians who were fluent in English and knew American politics very well, however, they were pessimistic about the course of U.S. – Russian relations because they felt that the U.S. does not show Russian proper respect.

Arbat St., Moscow, Russia, fall 2019

I had the opportunity to hear the views of older Russians (ones who were already adults before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991) as well during the program that I attended in Moscow. Although I only heard the views of a few people, it was clear that these individuals held generally more pessimistic views about the future of U.S. Russian relations. It could be perhaps that these individuals have witnessed bilateral relations in the long-term which makes them less likely to expect cooperation and understanding between the two countries in the future.

Regardless of the politics, on a personal level everyone seemed to get along with each other and respect each other’s opinion (even if we couldn’t always reach agreement). We were eager to hang out more with our Russian colleagues and they were happy to take us out to a restaurant and drinks.

Dunkin Donuts, Arbat St., Moscow, Russia, fall 2019

Moscow, the city, has welcomed American business and influence into everyday life. Walking down the streets, you will see a variety of foreign restaurants and even foreign chains including (but certainly not limited to) Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Pizza Hut, and, of course, McDonalds. Even some aspects of American culture have sneaked their way into Russia. For example, when I lived in St. Petersburg, my American friends and I decided to go to a bar on Halloween. This bar happened to have a Halloween special and the waiters on that day were dressed in costume.

When it comes to the U.S., Moscow will readily accept its burgers, movies, and sneakers, but when it comes to politics, Dear Reader, that is a big, fat, NYET!



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