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Examining Russian Aggression towards America

Caitlin LaCour

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In the latest news, the US has officially accused Russia as committing cyber attacks on the White House and meddling in the electoral system. Tensions between the two countries seem to have reached a boiling point. Here is some context and history that may explain some of the reasons we have reached this point of conflict.

Russia is a continuously rising superpower in the world, alongside China and America. However, the many problems that Russia has faced in the past has shaped the country and its people into a Western-phobic nation. With the Russian development of nuclear weapons despite post-Cold War agreements, funding the Syrian government while America backs the rebels in the Syrian civil war, annexing Crimea from the Ukraine in direct violation of NATO warnings, the president Vladimir Putin’s severe methods and crackdowns resulting in the assassination of journalists, and the hostility towards American ships in the European seas by Russian aircraft, the country of Russia has declared itself a threat against America, NATO, Europe, and any country that does not support the Russian agenda.

If you ask an American for their opinion of Russia, what would they say? Most likely something similar to what a Russian would say towards America. According to a Gallup survey, 99% of Russians are negative towards the U.S, while another Gallup survey reports 88% of Americans have unfavorable views of Russia.

Many Russian believe they are standing up to the United States after ‘rising out of chaos’. Russians are holding tightly onto the past, and now believe that since things are going better now, the West is resentful. “America is trying to encircle us,” said Russian citizen Kristina Donets,“We have finally risen out of chaos and they don’t like that (Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times).”

In the 19th century, ‘Slavophiles’ (those who greatly admired and worship Slavic people and culture) clashed with ‘Westernizers’ (those who believed that Russia’s development depended upon the adoption of Western European technology and liberal government) over the right path for Russia. Slavophiles wanted Russia’s future development to be based on values derived from their country’s early history, an autocracy, believing that their civilization was unique and superior to that of the West , while the Westernizers believed that the development of Russia was dependent on the adoption of Western technology and liberal government (The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th edition, 2012).

During World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union fought together as allies against the Axis powers. However, the relationship between the two nations was tense. Americans had long been wary of Soviet communism and concerned about Russian leader Joseph Stalin’s tyrannical rule of his country. The Soviets resented the Americans’ refusal to treat the USSR as a legitimate part of the international community as well as their delayed entry into World War II, which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Russians (History Channel). After the war, this tension developed into a Cold War, a period of about 45 years of an arms race, a space race, the growing hatred of communism/democracy, and the dividing of Berlin into the West and East. The Cold War ended in 1991 when the Berlin Wall fell along with the Soviet Union, the latter which reformed into smaller countries and the Russia still around today.

Modern examples of Russian aggression includes when Russian forces occupied Crimea, a peninsula in Ukraine, on February 27, 2014, prompting NATO response and widespread criticism. This showed, many countries believed, that the occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea and the subsequent war in eastern Ukraine indicate that Russia is both able and willing to use military force against neighboring nations.  (Martin Hurt, 2016 Index of Military Strength).

In 2016, Tensions between the two countries’ armed forces ramped up after Russian fighters and attack helicopters carried out simulated attacks on the USS Donald Cook, a US Navy destroyer operating in the Baltic Sea. For two days Russian pilots “made numerous, close-range and low-altitude passes” above the Donald Cook while it was conducting routine maritime drills, mimicking maneuvers used to strafe enemy targets. And a Russian fighter jet reportedly conducted a “barrel roll” over a U.S. Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane flying over the Baltic Sea, flying within 100 feet of the American aircraft, according to press reports (Carlo Muñoz – The Washington Times).

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Examining Russian Aggression towards America