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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs