On January 10, the U.S. State Department issued a “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” advisory for the Russian Federation, citing two main reasons – terrorism and harassment.
“U.S. citizens are often victims of harassment, mistreatment, and extortion by law-enforcement and other officials. U.S. consular assistance to detained individuals is often unreasonably delayed by Russian officials. Russia also enforces special restrictions on dual U.S.-Russian nationals. Due to the Russian government-imposed reduction on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia, the U.S. government has reduced ability to provide services to U.S. citizens,” the statement said.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry responded by accusing the U.S. government of “routinely frightening” its own citizens and claiming the travel alert is baseless.
“The U.S. has good reason to warn Americans against visiting Russia,” Paul Goble, former U.S. government adviser on Eurasian affairs told Polygraph.info.
“Today the risk of violence against Americans and others is higher than even in the 1990s. It is just common sense to avoid such places until they can become more stable and law abiding,” Goble said.
Russians “have absolutely no hatred or any negative feelings” for the Americans, Foreign Ministry press secretary Maria Zakharova said on January 11.
However, a public opinion survey released by Russia’s Levada Center polling agency on January 10 contradicted Zakharova. It found that 68 percent of the respondents believe the United States is Russia’s #1 enemy. By way of comparison, only 22 percent answered that way in March 1999, marking lowest level of antipathy toward the U.S. in the post-Soviet period.
“Everything she [Zakharova] says is a lie and the Russian media is overflowing with officially-inspired attacks on America and Americans,” Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council, told Polygraph.info.
The Russian media’s “officially-inspired” anti-Americanism is well-documented, and Polygraph.info has provided some of the evidence in fact checking and debunking similar claims in the past.
There were displays of overt racism against President Obama. U.S. diplomats have suffered constant harassment. U.S. organizations, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, were expelled from Russia. Russian authorities banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses, labeling the religious group as an extremist organization, and also banned American parents from adopting orphaned children from Russia.