Analysts Warn Against Knee-Jerk Anti-Americanism

Moscow was right to oppose Washington over Iraq, but Russian leaders must be cautious not to fall into Soviet-style, knee-jerk anti-Americanism that might not always serve the country's interests, leading politicians and experts said Wednesday.

Russia was far from alone in opposing the use of force without approval from the UN Security Council. Throughout the world, people have bristled at what is seen as a U.S. desire for global domination.

But the anti-U.S. sentiment expressed in Russia has been somewhat excessive, reminiscent of the Cold War and not always founded on Russian interests, said Yabloko Deputy Vladimir Lukin.

"The psychological condition that we inherited from the Soviet Union, from our past superpower status, continues to come into play," Lukin, a former Soviet ambassador to the United States, said at a news conference Wednesday.

"This is a constant, deaf irritation at the United States, which sometimes has valid grounds, sometimes less so, but it often takes precedence to a rational approach to our own interests," he said.

The war in Iraq set off a wave of anti-American feeling that had not been seen in years. For the first time since the 1999 NATO campaign against Yugoslavia, more Russians view the United States negatively than positively, said Yury Levada, head of the All-Russia Center for Public Opinion Research.

Russia's political leaders have been at the forefront of the antiwar movement.

"Like a Soviet diplomat during the Cold War, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is most concerned with finding the harshest possible expressions to characterize the Americans," the news magazine Yezhenedelny Zhurnal wrote this week.

Some public figures tried to follow the government's lead, but took it to extremes.

When a leading Russian mufti declared a jihad against the United States earlier this month, he evoked a wave of disapproval.

President Vladimir Putin warned later that day against letting emotions guide foreign policy.

Georgy Mirsky, chief political analyst at Moscow's Institute for World Economics and International Relations, said crude anti-Americanism in the media -- including calls by nationalist politicians to bomb the United States -- could sour relations.

"The whole world is anti-American but it's a different anti-Americanism -- against American hegemony," he told a gathering of foreign policy experts.

"Our anti-Americanism is disgusting. It's the anti-Americanism of hooligans and vulgar people."

Many experts said Moscow should not let Iraq get in the way of common interests between Russia and the United States, such as the fight against terrorism and Islamic extremism in Central Asia.

Anatoly Adamishin, a former top Russian diplomat, warned against entering into any permanent anti-U.S. coalitions.

He said Moscow's task now was to strengthen the role of the United Nations -- which he said had been damaged by attempts to use the organization to stop the war -- and to mend ties with Washington.

Lukin struck a similar note.

"Now it's time to gather stones," he said. "In the president's place I would think about how difficult it is going to be to gather those stones, given how hard they were thrown."