Will This “New Cold War” Between the U.S. and Russia Last Longer Than the Last Three?

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June 5 2014 10:02 AM

Will This “New Cold War” Between the U.S. and Russia Last Longer Than the Last Three?

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Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

As Presidents Obama and Putin are both scheduled to be at what may be a very awkward event in Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day tomorrow, the Financial Times reports that Russian opinion of the United States is at an all-time low:

Seventy-one per cent of respondents in the poll, conducted last month, described their feelings towards the US as “basically bad” or “very bad”, the highest number since Levada started polling such sentiment in 1990. The number of those feeling very negative towards America jumped by 10 percentage points compared with the previous poll in March.
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Meanwhile, amid new economic cooperation with China, Russian opinion of China has shot up to an all-time high of 77 percent.

One thing to keep in mind is that U.S.-Russia tenion is cyclical. The Russian public’s bursts of anti-Americanism tend to be fairly short-lived, as this chart from the Levada Center shows. The blue line is positive sentiment toward the United States, the red is negative:

levada

The previous big red spikes correspond with the 2008 war in Georgia, the Iraq war in 2003, and the Kosovo war of 1998–1999. Once the fireworks fade, hostility to America seems to revert to the mean.

U.S. opinion of Russia, as tracked by Gallup, has followed a fairly similar pattern:

gallup

Could this era of bad feelings be similarly short-lived? My guess is that tension is going to stay high for longer this time. Just today there’s news that the now Russia-less G7 is talking about further sanctions in Moscow, and the U.S.  is discussing beefing up its military presence around the Black Sea. Overall, the Russian factor seems to be looming much larger in virtually every U.S. security decision.

In Ukraine the threat of an outright Russian invasion has faded, but the violence continues and those involved certainly see larger geopolitical ramifications. One prominent separatist leader told the New York Times, “Everyone understands that this is a war between Russia and America, and we must be for one side or for the other.” 

 It doesn’t seem like this “war” is going to fade as quickly as previous crises.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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