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

Computer Crash Halts US Visa, Passport Operation

Problems with database have resulted in extensive backlog of applications, affected State Department's consular offices all over the world More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

World Bank: Boko Haram Stalls African Aid Projects

Islamist group’s terrorism sets back agriculture, health efforts in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria 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.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid