It bothers me to know that the majority of American citizens views Russia as an unfriendly nation. But according to a recently conducted Gallup poll, 60% of American adults view Russia in an unfavourable light. In my opinion, this is deeply unfortunate and also a very negative influence in international affairs.
The 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union was difficult for many Russians to accept, but it also presented the rest of the world with a brilliant opportunity. Gone was the old, hard-line Soviet leadership with its isolationist principles and its distaste for all things Western. The elimination of such a government ended (in theory) the Cold War, and afforded the chance for all nations to forge new, positive relationships with Russia and the former Soviet states.
Regrettably, however, this chance does not seem to have been acknowledged or acted upon by the West. Russia and the West do, in many areas, have very different values, and between them there is a history of suspicion, rivalry, and bad blood. But simply being angry, holding onto old stereotypes, and refusing to move forward together is never going to create a positive result. Differences in opinion can never be solved with silence. Dialogue and respectful discussion is crucial if we ever wish to move past this uncertain state of post-Cold War hostility.
As I have acknowledged, there are numerous differences in opinion between Russia and (as an example) the majority of the United States. Russia tends to be much more conservative, whereas America is a champion of progression and civil rights in the world. In the modern world there are generally certain attitudes which are held by a majority, but opposition to these attitudes is not inherently wrong or evil. I believe that the world as a whole, as well as every individual living in it, needs to accept that there will always be someone who thinks differently than they do. What matters is that we do not try to force our opinions inconsiderately on others, and that we ensure that our own opinions are stated with thoughtfulness and precision.
The Cold War superpowers of Russia and America do, however, occupy common ground- a fact that perhaps we should consider more often. Both nations are combating terrorist powers and organizations which draw their inspiration from the same extremist principles, and as a result, both can work together to make the world a better place for all.
I feel that Russia has always been the beneficiary of some unfair stereotypes and attitudes, encouraged, for example, by many a Hollywood movie. I wish that the West would see Russia’s many intricacies and strengths, instead of viewing it as an oppressive and backwards nation headed by a man who seems authoritarian and cruel.
Every society in history, and most likely every society to come, has its own innumerable problems- that is the mark of humanity. Corruption, individualism to a detrimental extreme, disregard for others- these are all problems which we will probably face for as long as we inhabit the earth. But what matters is that, instead of harping on others’ problems, we actually address them with understanding and work through them together. No one likes to be preached to nor to be ignored, and it might do the leaders of every nation good to remember it.
In closing, I lament the current state of distrust that not only America, but also the collective West, has for Russia. I also lament the fact that no country seems to be making an exceptional effort to fix this distressing problem. But I still have hope, and I believe that although Cold War attitudes may prevail in the 21st century, the chance that 1991 provided also exists still. Furthermore, international cooperation is not solely up to the leaders of nations. It begins with every individual, and we all have the power and the ability to see things in a different light, or to look at an issue with careful contemplation rather than immediate judgement.
We should all realize that our opinions and choices will never be the same as those of other people, but that this doesn’t mean that we cannot all coexist and enjoy productive and smooth relationships. We are all human. We all fail. We all inhabit this world together, and we should never allow our differences to open too great a void between us.
(2014, February 13). Americans’ Opinions of Russia, Putin Hit 20-Year Low- Poll. Retrieved from http://en.ria.ru/world/20140214/187519318/Americans-Opinions-of-Russia-Putin-Hit-20-Year-Low-Poll.html
Swift, A. (2014, February 13). Americans’ Views of Russia, Putin Are Worst in Years. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/167402/americans-views-russia-putin-worst-years.aspx