Views of Russia
When asked about Russia per se, Americans lean toward a mildly positive feeling. However, when asked about Russia's role in the world, a majority feel that Russia has a mainly negative influence, a large majority has a negative view of its government and its economic system, and a majority has a negative view of President Putin. At the same time, Americans are somewhat optimistic about the prospects for future democratic growth in Russia. Americans see Russia as a moderately powerful player in the world, and most do not see that changing in the near future.
The US-Russian Relationship
A modest majority views Russia as a friend, down from a large majority before the Iraq war. Russia is not seen as inherently threatening to the United States and is even seen as having a slightly positive influence on the United States. However, past views of Russia as a dependable partner in the war against terrorism;especially after 9/11--may have been diminished by Russia's reluctance to support the US in the invasion of Iraq. Overwhelming majorities continue to view Russia as a vital interest for the US, and a majority affirms the importance and appropriateness of Russia's participation in the G8 Summit.
Nuclear Arms and Russia
A very strong majority shows concern about the security of Russian nuclear stockpiles and believes securing them is critical to the war on terrorism. However, a majority is not confident that nuclear stockpiles in the former Soviet Union are secure from terrorists. An overwhelming majority supports the 2002 nuclear weapons reduction agreement between the United States and Russia, consistent with longstanding support for nuclear arms reduction agreements with Russia. Although Americans had for some years opposed developing a national missile defense system if it would interfere with arms control treaties with Russia, once the US withdrew from the ABM treaty on Dec. 13, 2001) and the Russians responded in a muted fashion, a majority of Americans said they supported the move.
NATO Enlargement and Russia
Consistent with the warming trend in attitudes toward Russia, the majority in favor of including Russia in NATO has increased. While a strong majority of Americans supported enlarging NATO, they primarily favored doing so to remove divisions in Europe and to promote collective security, rather than as a response to a Russian threat. Overall, there has been strong support for taking an inclusive approach to Russia—as evidenced by strong support for the Russia-NATO Council. In the short term, most have wanted to show some sensitivity to Russian concerns by not moving too quickly with the expansion of NATO, and by holding back from putting military forces close to Russian territory.
Aid to Russia
A majority has expressed support for giving economic aid to Russia, though not for increasing it.