A few days ago, an Ilyushin IL-62M liner carried over a hundred Russian soldiers and officers to Caracas. Symbolically, they made a stopover in Syria, as if saying that Venezuela is the next country after Syria to be saved from ruin and dismemberment. The military mission was led by the Head of General Staff, General Tonkoshkurov (“Thin-Skinned”, a name that would thrill Vladimir Nabokov).
‘Don’t you dare, exclaimed John Bolton, meddle in the Western Hemisphere! Hands off Venezuela! It is our back yard!’ The Russians didn’t buy it. Some time ago they tried to object to the US tanks being positioned in Estonia, a brief drive from St Petersburg, and all they’ve got was preaching that sovereignty means sovereignty, and Estonia does not have to ask for Russian permission to receive American military assistance. Now they repeated this American sermon verbatim to John Bolton and his boss. Get out of Syria first, they added.
This is a new level in the Russian-American relations, or should we say confrontation. For a very long time, the Russians convinced themselves that their liking for the United States was mutual, or at least would be returned one day. However, this stage is over, the scales fell off their eyes and they finally realised America’s implacable enmity. ‘These Russians are really dumb if it dawned on them only now’, you’d murmur. It is enough to read comments to the New York Times piece regarding Mueller’s exoneration of Trump to learn that hatred to Russia is a staple diet of American elites, on a par with love to Israel. That’s where we are.
But Russians had an opposing tradition. Russians had had tender feelings for the great nation beyond the ocean in the days of Tsars, in the Soviet days, and even more so in post-Soviet years. They liked America’s derring-do, its hardy pioneers, farmers, jazz, Hollywood. They compared American “Go West, young man” with their own exploration of Siberia. They compared their fast-growing cities to Chicago. Khrushchev admired the corn and called upon his people to compete with America peacefully. Russian Westernised educated classes (“intelligentsia”) sided with the US during Vietnam war and through the Middle East wars.
This love for America had been so entrenched that there were (practically) no Russian/Soviet movies with American villains.