News / Europe

Americans in Moscow Feel Chill in US-Russia Relations

FILE - Russian military planes fly above the Kremlin.
FILE - Russian military planes fly above the Kremlin.
James Brooke
The American confrontation with Russia over Ukraine has caused relations between Moscow and Washington to plummet to the lowest level in a generation.

American school children singing the Star Spangled Banner in the ballroom of Spaso House, the neoclassical ambassador's residence in the heart of Moscow, seemed to signal that all is on track in Russian-American relations.
 
But after the closed-door embassy meeting with 300 American residents in Moscow, it was clear that many here feel the Russia-U.S. relationship has gone off the rails (is greatly troubled).
 
For starters, construction engineer Oskare Karash noted that there is still no American ambassador here, three months into the Crimean crisis. No successor has been nominated to succeed Michael McFaul, who left Moscow on February 26 - the day before Russia started to annex Ukraine's breakaway territory.

"There is a lot of propaganda on Russian TV. And people's opinions changed. People who before felt good about Americans, they started to get bad ideas, wrong ideas. [There should be] Somebody in the correct role, who could talk at a high level, and stop some of that," said Karash.
 
Some American men asked U.S. diplomats about visas for their Russian girlfriends, but Alex Geller worried about a different kind of Visa.

In reprisal for American sanctions, Russia's parliament passed legislation that threatens to drive Visa and MasterCard, which have about 30 million Russian credit-card accounts, out of business in Russia.

Here is Geller, managing partner of an Internet company in Moscow:
 
"Can you imagine? You have to go to the doctor, you have to grab the cash. You have to go to any store, you have to grab cash. You want to a buy a ticket online, you cannot do that," said Geller.
 
It now looks like Russia will come up with a solution that will allow the American credit companies to stay.

Phil, an American lawyer, said he has lived here for a decade. Since the Ukraine crisis, he says, it is difficult to have normal conversations with Russian friends.

"I have opted to keep my mouth shut. I am not good that. But I keep more friends that way," said Phil.

Americans say they are coping with an abrupt change in mood.

Pujan Kasaju has worked in real estate finance here for two years:

"There were always questions: What's it like to live in America? Why did you come to Russia from America? Why would you leave a great country like America? Now it's like, What the hell are you guys doing? There is a sense of disenchantment," said Kasaju.

Tit-for-tat

No Americans interviewed said they have suffered harassment. But Kasaju saw photos on the Russian Internet showing hand-made signs on food kiosks and ice cream stands.

"'Americans are not allowed to buy our products, because we have enacted our own sanctions.' So, it's like a big joke. But maybe there is some half-seriousness to it," he said.

Several Americans blamed Washington for misreading Russian psychology. For the last 12 years, Marilyn Murray has shuttled between Arizona and Moscow. Here she teaches trauma therapy to Russian health-care professionals.

Because of Russia's flat geography, she says, it has often been invaded. As a result, Russians defend themselves by relying on the fear factor.
 
"They have had to establish a fearsome image to keep their predators away. And so, even if you look at what their symbol is. It is this bear, this huge Russian bear, that says, 'Fear me! If you don't respect and fear me, I am going to eat you!' They have had to do that for centuries for self-protection," said Murray.
 
Murray says Washington made a mistake by not, at least, faking fear of Russia.
 
"When U.S. government officials make a comment that Russia is no longer a threat, they act dismissive toward them, as though they are irrelevant, they are immaterial, they are not important -  insignificant, inconsequential, just don't matter any more. Number one, it is very scary for a Russian [to realize] 'Oh, these people no longer fear us.' But the other thing that is really, really important - that many people don't realize - is how much they take that personally," she said.

For Americans living in Moscow, Russia can seem suddenly unfriendly and unprofitable. But friendliness was the treatment received by one American visitor tracked down for an interview in the halls of the old Soviet Army Museum.

Christopher Arndt was visiting Moscow from Pennsylvania:

"I had a gentleman just today, when I was standing looking kind of clueless, with the map in front of my face, offer to drive me over to the museum, because he couldn't quite explain it in English. And I sure could not understand him in Russian," said Arndt.

During this tourist season, Arndt's experience may be a rarity. Tourism professionals say the chill in Russia's relations with the West will cut American and European visitors here by at least 30 percent this year.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Cara from: Oklahoma, USA
June 22, 2014 8:03 AM
None of these news stories will scare me away from my trip to Samara in October. I have been planning and saving for almost a year.


by: Marilyn Murray from: Moscow
May 29, 2014 3:45 AM
Excellent article as always by Jim - glad to have him back in Russia.

One note - I did not mean that the government should "fake fear" - only that they should stop their dismissive attitude toward Russia which has gone on for the past two decades.

They could have emphasized on how the US and Russia have worked together (fighting terrorism, etc.) and recognize that Russia is still the largest country in the world and very important.

Plus I don't think that the US government and most Americans have any idea of how difficult it has been in Russia since 1991 and how very far they have come since that time. The Russians are tired of being patronized and dismissed by the West. One of the ways they could be no longer seen as irrelevant is to make the world fear them again.


In Response

by: Kseniya from: RF
May 29, 2014 12:43 PM
Symbol of Russia - the two-headed eagle. This flag of my country. "Psychologist" is talking nonsense - the bear was invented in the United States and Europe. Because the United States and Europe were afraid of Russia. But the Russian people do not need to be feared. Russian, if you know the story, do not attack other countries, but always win those who come with aggression.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid