Russia to Romney: How could we be your No. 1 enemy?
Mitt Romney's comment has astounded Russians, who acknowledge mixed relations with the US but point to Russia's integration with the international community as proof that they are not foe No. 1.
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Attitudes toward the US have fluctuated among Russians since the USSR collapsed more than 20 years ago. During the 1990s, the Kremlin sought to align itself with Western policies, but over the past decade, under now president-elect Vladimir Putin, it has carved out a more independent stance, often irritating Washington with uncooperative acts, such as two UN Security Council vetoes of resolutions aimed at international intervention in Syria's crisis.Skip to next paragraph
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But most Russian experts point out that occasional quarrels over big issues like NATO expansion and missile defense – which often have a distinct cold war ring to them – are more than compensated for by many examples of Russia's progressive integration into the world community over recent years. Russia is a member of the G8, it sits on the Council of Europe, and late last year it finally joined the World Trade Organization. The military confrontation that once divided Europe into armed camps has dissipated, most former Soviet allies are now members of NATO, and this month Russia even offered its former enemy the use of an advanced Russian airbase in the Volga region of Ulyanovsk to help ease the strain of resupplying embattled NATO forces in Afghanistan.
A poll carried out by the independent, Moscow-based Levada Center earlier this month found that 42 percent of Russians think relations with the US are either "friendly," "good neighborly," or "normal and peaceful," while 47 percent think they are "cool" or "tense," and just 4 percent said they are "hostile."
"I can't see Romney's remarks as anything but an emotional outburst," says Gennady Gudkov, deputy chair of the State Duma's security committee. "That just doesn't correspond to the actual state of relations between our countries at all. Not only is Russia not a country that's hostile to the US, we are actually allies in many geopolitical issues. Russians may sometimes verbally abuse America, but we tend to keep our money over there, both privately and in the form of our national currency reserves, which are held largely in US dollars… In fact, Russia is far more interested in our relations with the US than the Americans are in their ties with Russia."