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We Americans like to think that we can get along with anybody, but we’ve had our share of enemies. Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini – they all had their day. But for years, Russia – formerly the Soviet Union – gave us a steady supply of bad guys. Think of Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev. Lately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has seemed determined to join that list.
According to a new Gallup poll, more than two-thirds of Americans see Russia as unfriendly, or as an enemy. Barely one in four considers Russia a friend or ally. Not surprising, perhaps, given recent events – including Russia’s brutally efficient annexation of Crimea. But what’s striking is that this perception has nearly reversed itself in just eight years. Warm feelings about our former Cold War adversary reached a high point in 2006, when nearly three Americans in four saw Russia as a friend. In hindsight, that might have been just wishful thinking.