AntiWestern sentiment 'at record levels' in Russia

Anti-Western sentiment has reached historic levels in post-Soviet Russia, with a vast majority expressing negative attitudes towards the United States and the European Union, a poll showed.

AFP| Updated: Feb 10, 2015, 01:28 AM IST

Moscow: Anti-Western sentiment has reached historic levels in post-Soviet Russia, with a vast majority expressing negative attitudes towards the United States and the European Union, a poll showed.

Relations with the United States, the former Cold War era rival, have never been particularly warm under Vladimir Putin, but ties appear to have come undone since the start of the Ukraine crisis more than a year ago, a study by the respected Levada Centre pollster showed.

"We have not seen such aggressive and strong resentment towards the West since we started our monitoring," Lev Gudkov, director of the Levada Centre, told AFP.

Eighty one percent of respondents expressed negative attitudes towards the United States, up from 44 percent in January 2014.

The number of people who called ties between Moscow and Washington hostile has grown tenfold -- to 42 percent last month from 4 percent in January 2014.

The poll also showed that traditionally good relations with the European Union have also taken a beating, with the number of people reporting negative attitudes towards the bloc more than doubling to 71 percent.

Twenty four percent said relations with the EU were now hostile, up from 1 percent in January 2014. Forty one percent spoke of tense relations, up from 9 percent a year ago.

Predictably, nearly half said ties with the fellow Slavic nation of Ukraine were now hostile, up from 2 percent a year ago.

Forty percent said ties with the West should be strengthened, while 36 percent believe it is best to give Washington and Brussels a wide berth.

At the same time, 49 percent believe that Russia should win back its Group of Eight membership it has lost over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

Gudkov chalked up high levels of hostility towards Americans and Europeans to aggressive propaganda on national television.

"What happens next depends on television," he said.

"If there is no escalation, if this does not grow into Russia's war with neighbouring states, then the wave will ebb."

The Russian economy has been hit hard by several rounds of Western sanctions coupled with falling oil prices, with the ruble losing half its value.