Although the Obama administration not long ago hoped for a positive relationship "reset" with Russia, tensions between the United States and Russia have throughout this year continued to escalate to highs unseen since the Cold War. A poll published last week from the Russian Public Opinion Research Center indicates that because of this worsening relationship, more Russians believe the U.S. poses a terror threat to them than radical Islamists like ISIS do.
The center reports that 22 percent of Russians consider the U.S. to be "the main source of terrorist threats" to their nation. This is a dramatic spike from one year ago, when only 4 percent believed the U.S. was such a threat. Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a harshly anti-American speech on Friday, accusing the West of sponsoring terrorism in Russia. The polling data was gathered well-before the speech, but the nation's media is largely government-controlled, and the government has been raising a specter of U.S. meddling for months.
Just as interesting is how this compares to the perceived threat of other groups. America's biggest bogeyman might by ISIS, but only 16 percent (a 3 percent rise) believe Islamic terror groups are the main danger to Russia. This seems surprisingly low, since ISIS issued a video directed at Putin, warning that they are "on [their] way" to Russia to remove him from power and to "liberate Chechnya and the Caucusus." Local threats from the contentious Caucusus has dropped from 20 percent to a mere 3 percent. A terror attack in Chechnya killed five police officers and injured a dozen other people earlier this month, but that was after the polling data was collected.
Also interesting is that for the first time, Russians fear a terror attack from Ukraine, a nation that Russia has been invading for much of this war. Seven percent believe the neighboring state poses a threat even though, as the independent Moscow Times points out, Russian-state propaganda has presented Ukraine as a monstrous fascist entity.
Polls by many organizations throughout the year have shown Putin's approval rating among their highest ever, in spite of an economy that is on the verge of recession. His government has unfortunately reversed a trend toward liberalization and is cracking down on homosexuals, political dissidents, and religious minorities. Emigration out of Russia has spiked in the last two years, though Russians are less inclined to come to the U.S. than they were in the '90s or early 2000s.
Recently, when a Fox News host fantasized that America's anti-terror operations would benefit a strong-man leader like Putin, I pointed out that Russia has had a destructive domestic terror war that has never really ended – last year over 600 terror crimes were reported in the unstable regions.