March 29, 2019
‘Russiagate’ is over. But its toxic legacy will endure. And in Russia it has led to disenchantment with the United States.
Red Army Street is a 3km-long thoroughfare in Krasnodar, southern Russian, notable for its many bars and nightclubs, which number in the dozens. Indeed, it’s so raucous it makes snooty Moscow look rather pedestrian.
Last summer, I was in one hostelry, with a South African farmer who was visiting the region. Naturally, we spoke in English. This seemed to upset three drunken locals who (in Russian) were loudly exchanging anti-American slurs.
Eventually, the largest, and scariest, of the trio broke into English to shout “Yankee, go home.” To which I swiftly replied that I was Irish. Suddenly, he ran over, bear-hugged me, and shouted at the top of his voice: “Conor McGregor!”
It wasn’t always like this. When I moved to Russia, nine years ago, Americans were very popular here. And Russians knew little of my homeland, most wrongly seeing it as an extension of the United Kingdom.
If I’d had a dollar, in the early part of the decade, for every Russian who’d expressed a desire to visit the US, I’d easily have had enough to fund return tickets there myself, plus a few weeks in a decent hotel.
However, times have changed. And admiration and curiosity towards the US has been replaced with disappointment, hostility and often anger. We’re a long way from Mikhail Gorbachev advertising “Pizza Hut” now.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
And, it’s largely down to the Russiagate hoax which consumed American politics and its mainstream media for almost three years, before Robert Mueller kicked it into touch last weekend. Of course, there are other factors, among them US interference in Ukraine, anti-Russia sanctions and continued NATO expansion, but it’s the xenophobia Russiagate unleashed which has done the most damage.