The U.S. announcement of its withdrawal from the 1971 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty “may provoke a rise in anti-American sentiments in Russia,” according to official Russian sources.
“Far from all Russians trust Americans,” because the Russian people “are only beginning to get used to relations of trust with the United States,” Moscow warned. By terminating its participation in the ABM accord, the United States “in many respects, is reducing to zero what positive has been achieved in bilateral relations” since the signing of the agreement.
The statements were broadcast by the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.
Voice of Russia, despite its nominal independence, continues today to consistently reflect the views of the Russian government. Gennady Seleznev, communist leader in Russia’s parliamentary lower house, the Duma, calls the Voice of Russia “a national treasure,” and referred to himself as “in the forefront among those defending the interests of the Voice of Russia.” Until 1994, the Voice of Russia was known as Radio Moscow.
The Voice of Russia broadcast runs counter to official statements made by both the United States and Russia, indicating that termination of the ABM treaty would not seriously affect U.S.-Russian relations.
President George W. Bush dismissed the ABM treaty as belonging to the era of Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union and irrelevant to contemporary defense realities.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that American withdrawal from the ABM treaty was a “mistake,” referring to the agreement as a “cornerstone” of world peace.
Neither national leader has indicated a substantial change in relations between Russia and America.
During the Dec. 13 press briefing, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, responding to a reporter’s question, stated, “There is much more to the U.S.-Russian relationship than a 30-year-old treaty,” and expressed confidence that “Russia is moving in the general direction of the West …”
Reflecting the Putin government’s stated position, the Voice of Russia reported that “Moscow official circles have been urging” the Russian people “not to dramatize the situation … arguing that it [U.S. termination of the ABM agreement] will not affect Russian-American relations.”
However, the Voice of Russia then darkly warned of a “reaction” by the Russian people. Citing remarks from a recent editorial from the Chicago Tribune, the broadcast stated that the U.S. termination of the ABM accord could “endanger” cooperation between Russia and the United States, “crack the fragile trust” between the two nations and “provoke a rise in anti-American sentiments in Russia.”
The Voice of Russia rhetorically asked, “Does Washington want that?” and added: “It will become clear in the near future.”
Statements broadcast over the Voice of Russia are made within a milieu of ever-increasing control of the Russian mass media by the Putin government. Moscow has extended its dominance – directly or indirectly – over all major media outlets, even as far as controlling radio and television relay stations.
Operating within obvious media restrictions, and never previously exercising a noticeable degree of independence, the Voice of Russia is giving its listeners a portent of anti-U.S. hostility, which may not be discernible at the level of heads of state, but very possibly at the level of American traveling and doing business with Russia.
Decades of Soviet-inspired hatred of the West – and the United Stats in particular – have taken a toll on a people who have been brutalized by over seven decades of Communist rule, followed by a decade of “democratic” government, which many Russians see as even worse than communism.