An increase in anti-Americanism stands out as one of the most dominant features of the Kremlin’s policy in 2012, writes Russia analyst Michael Boehm. Since the propaganda campaign worked so effectively, we can expect more state-sponsored anti-Americanism in 2013.
The first anti-U.S. salvo was fired after Michael McFaul arrived in Moscow in mid-January 2012 as the new U.S. ambassador. Pro-Kremlin political analysts and a dozen pseudo-documentaries on state-controlled television, such as “Anatomy of a Protest,” warned Russians throughout the first six months of the year that McFaul, a renowned academic expert in democratic revolutions, had been sent by Washington to help orchestrate an Orange-style revolution.
The second large salvo was fired in July, when Putin signed the law forcing “politically active” nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign money to register as “foreign agents.” Then in October, USAID, the largest source of funds for Russian NGOs, was forced to close its Moscow office.
The 2012 anti-U.S. campaign peaked on Dec. 28, when Putin signed the “anti-Magnitsky act” that bans all U.S. adoptions of Russian children. Article 3 of the anti-Magnitsky act allows Russia to suspend activities of NGOs if they receive money from U.S. citizens and “present a danger to the interests of Russia.” Before, only funds sent by the State Department were considered subversive; now private donations from U.S. citizens are considered subversive as well.
The Kremlin’s hard work on the anti-American front seems to have paid off. ….a recent VTsIOM poll found that 64 percent of Russians oppose foreign-funded NGOs. Furthermore, 23 percent believe Putin’s and state-television’s version of events — that Moscow protesters were paid by the U.S. to rally in the streets — while 47 percent had difficulty knowing who to believe, according to a Levada Center* poll in March. By the end of 2012, Levada found, the percentage of Russians who had a positive attitude toward the U.S. had dropped to 46 percent from 67 percent a year earlier.
These results show that anti-Americanism remains a tried-and-true method for President Vladimir Putin to boost popularity among his conservative constituency and to shift attention away from Russia’s own problems onto a mythical enemy.
This extract is taken from a longer article in today’s Moscow Times. RTWT
*The Levada Center receives support from the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.