Why do Russians Hate Americans
This is something that one of my New Zealand friends asked me about just a couple of days ago. I had to scratch my head and think. It is a hard question because I don’t hate America or Americans, in fact I think “hate” is a very strong word to throw it around lightly. To hate someone you have to have a very good reason indeed.
So, I went home and thought for a while trying to decide if the question actually makes sense… And having thought and looked around I would say that healthy majority of Russians don’t actually hate America but many (I think it is quite a significant number) now dislike it. The thing is that just 10 years ago most people in Russia actually liked America and thought of it to be a wonderful place to be. So what happened here.
I am not claiming to be a major expert in political relationships so what I say below is mostly my own opinions based on personal experience, things I’ve read, watched and listened. I do believe this to be true but if you find some of my opinions contradictory let me know. Anyway, here it comes.
I think if you talk to Russians, you’ll find that majority feel that the countries of the West and especially America found it very convenient not to have a strong Russia after the break up of USSR. Some general details can be found in all knowing Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_post-Soviet_Russia. Many Russians believe that it was a huge mistake to let American advisers into the country to “help” with reforms. As a result of “shock therapy” the amount of stolen resources and goods during this time is just unbelievable. And many believe that many western companies profited from this. In any case no one came and helped when the country was in dire need.
Instead NATO was spreading to Russian borders while keeping it out at the same time. I don’t know if you are aware of that, but there was a deal made between Russia and the West (read USA) that NATO will not spread to the East. With Russia weak the deal was soon forgotten. Another fact, Russia actually asked to join NATO in 1991…
But this request was ignored while the adjacent countries were accepted in. So what does it tell Russians? That they are still considered if not an enemy, then an opponent.
That followed by the chain of coloured revolutions supported by USA really made Russians feel rather uncomfortable.
An example used in many articles circulating on the Net is the equivalent situation of having Russian weapons pointing at USA from, say, Mexico after the pro-Russian government is installed there. I think the reaction would have been very quick…
Then we have the whole Iraq/Afganistan thing. The whole war was fought because of one reason – USA trying to secure oil supplies. I am sure there is more to it than that, but you have to be blind to believe that “establishing democratic government” was anywhere close to being the reason for that war.
And if we look at the current situation, Pakistan was a safe enough place as long as it ran along with USA plans for the region, but as soon as its relationships with USA got colder and those with China warmed up we are having a nice little civil war coming up while American troops are attacking villages without sending any requests to Pakistani government. And if anyone is going to tell me that USA is trying to pursue anything but pure political interests in the region I will smile.
So, do you think that having all that going on adds to the feeling of love and respect towards United States? Not really. The divergence between the “democratic knight in shining armour” and the oil drenched political reality are so obvious that only a true American patriot is not going to see it.
Now, Georgia was yet another example of the same approach. I am not going to go into it now, but will instead do some translations of political analytics from Russian side later. I have to say, I do not believe in Russian altruism on this matter any more than in American idealism but I do believe America is at fault for meddling in the areas of the world that it has interests in and not tidying up after itself. The war in Georgia is a result of such “remote meddling” exercises.
But anyway, these are all political and economic grievances that Russia and Russians have against the USA and the West. There is also a whole other layer to this – cultural issues. There is that funny thing about most humans and most countries. Everyone always believes that their way is the best.
If you go to China, they will tell you “Look our way is so good. With our hard control over the economy and the people we can achieve so much and so fast.” And they will be correct at that. They do manage to achieve a lot at a very low cost. And people in the country are very patriotic and are ready to fight anyone who would come and change it for the sake of “democracy”. I’ve discussed this with many Chinese with whom I had luck to study and work together in the past. Majority admit that there are still problems, but MANY actually go back while pretty much ALL are proud of their country. So they gotta do something right in China to instill people’s loyalty. It can’t be all brainwashing, a lot of it is tradition and culture.
Now look at Europe. To me this place was a childhood dream. A birthplace of western civilization, diverse cultures that learned to co-exist with each other over the turbulent years of past centuries. But I’ve read it often enough from American journalists that European democracy is not “democratic enough”. That it puts too much emphasis on government support, shorter working hours, bureaucracy, which makes it less effective.
If you look at USA itself, you’ll find that there is a huge separation between people and decision makers. The lobbying and donations is the standard way to win the elections and in the end interests of big businesses run it all. At the same time health-care system is pretty dodgy (unless you are rich) and the crime rate is rather high.
My point is that every system has a right to exist if it is capable of competing and is able to stand against others in our complex interconnected world. And when I look at Russia I don’t see a horrible totalitarian state that West/America is trying to portray. I see huge areas of land that are very hard to control through democratic means. In place like that quick switch to democracy equals corruption decay and collapse. As a patriot who loves his country I do not want this to happen as you wouldn’t either. So I shake my head and say that democracy that West is trying to force on Russia will not work for quite some time, just as Communism didn’t. First the corruption has to be eliminated, the supporting infrastructure has to be build and people need to get used to the idea. And even then, it may not be what people will want. And this is exactly my point.
People are complex and they don’t want the same things. Or rather they do, but ideas may mean different things in different places. In Russia many think that Western obsession with hard rules makes people dull. It is like living in a glasshouse where all nutrients are provided and all you need to do is eat, sleep, work and have kids. To Russians such life without this extra “extremeness” is plain boring. Majority of my Russian friends and colleagues who routinely travel to Europe and into USA on assignments and on holidays believe that although western system provides security (rule of the law) it does not leave much space for anything outside the square.
I will give you one example. In Russia they widely sell gauze which is used in all sorts of applications starting from pickling and making cottage cheese and finishing with baby nappies and wound bandages. Now in the West, an average person will have to buy 10 different things “specially designed” for each individual task. So, someone put some creative thought into it and made money, but majority is just stupidly consuming it. So, to someone coming from Russia it feels extremely stiff. You need to have hundreds of items that you could live without back home.
I am just telling you this to give a perspective on cultural diversity. The thing that Russians (and I in particular 🙂 ) dislike the American culture for is unipolar globalization of the world. You may say “The world wants it” but the truth is the world doesn’t have a choice and American politics is trying to ensure that it stays that way.
Mc Donalds is not great but it is everywhere, same comes for all the other stuff. It is not great, it is just convenient/easy to digest and the worst is that USA has enough power to spread throughout the world uncontained. I am all for globalization in general (sharing ideas, lifestyles etc), but I think everyone should have the right to keep their own literature, music, art. I personally think that Americanization of the world is quite bad, just as bad as Russification or Chinafication or Germanofication whould be. The world has to be diverse and the differences should be respected.
This doesn’t mean that there will be no conflicts, but conflicts get resolved. What should be avoided is a self righteous “holier than thou” attitude which is so common in USA.