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Russian Opinion of the United States Improves


Russia is a country where the general public is experiencing an overall increase in positive views about the United States and its people. In at least two recent studies, one in the United States and the other in Russia, statistics show Russians generally have a good attitude toward their former Cold War adversary.

A recent Pew Center survey of 16 nations found only one country, India, with a more favorable view of the United States than Russia.

In Russia, positive sentiment toward America is reported to have risen from an approval rate of 36 percent in 2002, to 52 percent presently.

Businesswoman Olga Kashuba, 46, is a good example of the trend. She has traveled to America twice, most recently last year, and says she finds there is a lot Russians can learn from Americans. Ms. Kashuba says she likes Americans' capacity for work, their efficiency, responsibility, and ability to set and complete concrete tasks.

The Pew Center findings largely coincide with another study just carried out in Russia by the independent, Moscow-based Levada Analytical Center. It carries out up to 200 surveys of Russian public opinion each year on everything from social issues, to politics, and the economy.

General Director and founder Yury Levada tells VOA that the survey results, in his view, are not really a surprise. "For the past 10 years, there was only one moment when bad attitude to the United States was prevailing. It was for short period, for about one or two months, during [the U.S.-led NATO] bombing of Belgrade. This was very painful for [a] big part of Russia," he explained. "Not now... not Iraq," he added.

Asked why he thought Russians had generally left behind the initial bitterness seen over the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Mr. Levada said that most Russians have many other more pressing problems on their minds these days, such as economic hardship. As for critics, he says he believes their attitude stems more from unresolved domestic problems in Russia than from any specific American action, be it in Iraq, or elsewhere.

Mr. Levada also says the U.S.-led war against terrorism has had a positive effect, as noticed in his survey's views on the recent terrorist bombings in the United Kingdom. "The biggest part of people see this attack against England as an attack against all humanity, including the United States and Russia. And they have [the] opinion that it is possible [for] some united action against [the] common enemy," added Mr. Levada.

Much like America's struggle with its image abroad, Mr. Levada says Russians also feel their nation is globally unpopular. This has led President Vladimir Putin to repeatedly state during the past few years that Russia's national interests will be at the heart of all policy decisions.

This language has proven popular among a large number of Russians who feel that their nation's interests and wishes are often more or less ignored on the world stage. Among them is student Ilya Antonov, 21, who supports President Putin's attempt to restore Russia's former Superpower status.

But he says he is not hopeful things will change anytime soon. As Ilya sees it, the United States will continue to dominate Russia for at least another 10 years.

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