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Chart: Anti-Americanism is exploding in Russia

Dmitri Dukhanin/Kommersant via Getty Images

However bad you thought attitudes toward the US were in Russia, you're probably underestimating the severity and suddenness of rising anti-Americanism there. Just over 80 percent of Russians now see the US negatively — an astounding and apparently unprecedented high — according to the reputable Levada Center polling organization. The poll also finds that 42 percent of Russians see the US and Russia as "hostile" or as "enemies," depending on the translation.

That number is even more striking when you look at it over time. This chart, from Levada, shows Russian attitudes toward the US from 1990 through today. The header roughly translates to "How do you view the US generally"; the blue line represents the share of Russians who say they view the US "positively," while the red line is proportion who view the US "negatively":

Russian attitudes toward the US since 1990: blue is positive, red is negative (Levada Center)

There have been three previous spikes — in the late 1990s during the Kosovo War; in 2003, when the US invaded Iraq; and in 2008, when the US was critical of Russia's war with Georgia — but none so profound as now, and all quite temporary. Generally, Russian attitudes toward the US have been pretty positive. Until now.

You can see this most recent rise in anti-Americanism going back to 2012, several months after Vladimir Putin's reelection as president, which some observers have claimed involved electoral fraud and sparked anti-Putin protests in Moscow. Since then, he has sought to cement his rule and his support by de-emphasizing economic growth and instead emphasizing Russian nationalism, especially through confrontation with the dreaded West. That has worked; Putin's approval rating has spiked along with anti-Americanism:

In Russia, this is often experienced as a belief that the US backed a 2013 fascist coup in Ukraine (in fact, the US was moderately supportive of a popular uprising against the pro-Russia president), is instigating war there to hurt Russia (in fact, Russia is invading Ukraine), and that the US pushed economic sanctions to destroy Russia's economy (the US has imposed targeted sanctions, but in fact Russians have been much more hurt by the decline in oil prices). Putin is doing a pretty good job of blaming the US for Russia's problems, and you can see it working in the concurrent rise in anti-Americanism and in Putin's approval rating.

Of course, this works both ways. Here, for contrast, are American views of Russia. Generally, the one has mirrored the other; the approval and disapproval tends to be mutual. Interestingly, for much of the past 25 years, Russians have approved of the US more than Americans approved of Russia — except now, when rising American disapproval of Russia has not kept pace with Russia's of the US:

(Gallup)

For all those reasons, don't expect anti-American attitudes in Russia to improve until Russia's economic collapse slows and likely until the Ukraine crisis ends. These attitudes will make it more difficult for Putin to broker peace in Ukraine, should he want to, as he's built up the war as a necessary response to encroaching, US-backed fascism.

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