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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Summit Leaves Everyday Man Unimpressed

All the hubbub surrounding this week's summit between Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin fails to impress Felix Mikhailov, a 52-year-old auto plant worker.

"Summits mean little these days and are only held to observe protocol and demonstrate mutual respect," said Mikhailov, pausing near Pushkin Square as he headed home from work.

He said that the last time U.S.-Russian summits held any significance was in the 1980s, when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan met to bring an end to the Cold War.

Mikhailov is one of many ordinary Russians who are showing scant interest in the Bush-Putin summit, a sign that people are more concerned about their day-to-day lives than foreign affairs, analysts said.

"Foreign policy remains on the periphery of public opinion and only occasionally receives attention when it gets into the media spotlight," said Andrei Ryabov, political analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center.

Two polls conducted ahead of the summit also illustrate the public's indifference toward foreign affairs. The polls arrived at contradictory conclusions. One poll found that the majority of Russians have negative feelings about the United States, while the other found that more people felt positively.

Both polls, however, showed that Russians' attitude toward the United States has improved since early March, when many were incensed over the perceived ill-treatment of Russian athletes at the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

"Now our people have recovered from the post-Olympic shock and see the United States in a more positive light," said Yelena Petrenko, research director at the Public Opinion Foundation, which conducted one of the polls.

The Public Opinion Foundation survey found that 58 percent of Russians view the United States as an unfriendly nation, while 25 percent regard it as a friend. In March, 71 percent of respondents said the United States was unfriendly, and 17 percent said it was friendly.

The foundation polled 1,500 people across the country. No margin for error was given.

The other recent poll, conducted by the All-Russian Center of Public Opinion Studies, or VTsIOM, found that 59 percent of Russians had good or very good feelings toward the United States, while 34 percent felt negatively. In comparison, a similar VTsIOM poll conducted in March found that 48 percent felt good about the United States and 41 percent felt negatively.

The latest VTsIOM poll interviewed 1,600 respondents across the country. No margin for error was provided.

VTsIOM sociologist Leonid Sedov credited Putin's high popularity for the strong showing for the United States.

"Putin's popularity is still very high, and his meeting with Bush is widely seen as something positive for Russia, " he said. "This makes the United States more attractive in the eyes of many."

The VTsIOM poll also found that slightly more than half of Russians worried that U.S.-Russian relations were based on mutual distrust.

On the street, some Muscovites said Russia was going too far in trying to improve ties with the United States.

"It is one thing to just get along with a superpower like the United States and unite in the face of a terrorist threat," said Irina Fedorovskaya, a 29-year-old historian. "It's quite another thing to become both politically and economically dependant on the States. We should be more pragmatic in dealing with them."

Others simply shrugged their shoulders. "All these American presidents sort of look the same and smile the same," said Gennady Artyomov, 39, a furniture maker. "But Bush is OK, a good guy."

A pensioner shopping at an outdoor market near the Vodny Stadion metro station said she missed Bush's predecessor, President Bill Clinton.

"I liked better the one they had before. What's his name ... oh, yes, Clinton," said the woman, who would only give her name and patronymic, Lidia Mikhailovna.

Mikhailov, the auto plant worker, said he saw a big difference between Bush and Putin.

"Putin came from the KGB but at least he is educated and intelligent, a thing that cannot be said about Bush," he said.