In a perfect world, we’d love to believe everyone has our best interests at heart — even the Russians. But, as we all know, politics ain’t perfect. So when President Trump says, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be friends with Russia? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?” — a healthy dose of skepticism makes sense.
While a Pollyanna-ish world in which the U.S. gets along with the Ruskies would be interesting, there are reasons why we aren’t, we cannot and should not be pals.
1 | The Ideological Divide
No matter how amazing it would be to get along with every person and culture, there are legitimate bumps in the road. There couldn’t be a wider ideological gap between communism and capitalism. One equates to total government control while the other represents individual freedom. When countries are built on divergent bedrock principles, there is a natural fork in the philosophical road.
2 | Free Speech Restrictions
Freedom of speech is a God-given right and a hallmark of American democracy. Our First Amendment rights guarantee the freedom to speak our minds without fear of retribution — even when we say something against the government. The Kremlin cracks down hard on dissent. Those who speak up are often jailed, tortured or killed. Freedom of expression is sacred to Americans, and its repression is a huge stumbling block to a potential friendship with Russia. How can we trust a government that doesn’t allow its own people to speak their minds?
3 | State-Sponsored Corruption
Some believe the U.S. isn’t much better than the rest of the world when it comes to corruption. While it’s not perfect, nothing comes close to the hope of achieving The American Dream. While equal results are not guaranteed, hard work and ingenuity can pay off big in America. Russia, on the other hand, has turned corruption into an art form. America’s free market principles are in direct conflict with Russia’s pay-to-play, government-controlled society.
4 | Ivan Drago
Okay, okay — he’s fictional — but pop culture does matter. While Ronald Reagan battled Russia in real life with Pope John Paul II and Margaret Thatcher to end the Cold War, Ivan Drago killed an Uncle Sam-clad Apollo Creed on the big screen. Thankfully (spoiler alert), American icon Rocky Balboa avenged Creed’s death, kicking Drago to the curb and restoring American dominance in the world of make-believe boxing.
5 | Domestic Abuse Tolerance
Comparatively speaking, women enjoy unprecedented rights and equality in the United States. Not so in Mother Russia. Members of the State Duma just pushed a bill for Putin’s signature that would decriminalize certain cases of domestic abuse. In the absence of broken bones or a concussion, abusers would be fined without criminal charges. In the United States, domestic violence remains a criminal offense.
6 | From Russia With Love
Ever have a friend stay over and read your diary? Yeah, that’s Russia. Let’s face it, Russia is notorious for spying. The Cold War era may be long gone, but Russia still tries to steal whatever intel they can from us. Take Edward Snowden, for example. Oh wait, they already did.
7 | Alexsandr Dugin
Alexsandr Dugin is a name not everyone knows — but they should. A far right fascist sowing seeds of chaos and revolution around the world, he is a key advisor to Putin and a very dangerous man. Dugin believes Hitler was on the right track, but didn’t go far enough. He allegedly advised Putin years ago of Russia’s inability to compete with the technological and economic might of the United States. So, they decided to create revolution using “asymmetrical” weapons like WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Additionally, the actions of Dugin and Russia in Western nations appear to be fomenting revolution in the streets, inevitably with Putin or someone like him to rise from the ashes and seize control.
8 | Miracle on Ice
In 1980, the Soviet hockey team was the hands down favorite to win gold at the Winter Olympics, having won six of the seven previous Winter Games. The team consisted primarily of seasoned, professional players. An all-amateur U.S. team posed little threat, especially one that was the youngest in U.S. history. In a stunning upset, the U.S. beat Russia in a dramatic final now called the Miracle on Ice. Not only was it one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history, it was a cultural shift that had an immeasurable impact on the American psyche during the Cold War. It was one of America’s greatest triumphs and the USSR’s greatest defeats.
9 | Stirring the Pot
Russia is the friend that smiles to your face while causing problems behind your back. In the Middle East, Putin publicly proclaims to be anti-terrorism and anti-ISIS while backing the Assad regime and cozying up to Iran. In America, Putin denies allegations that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election despite evidence to the contrary. Chaos in America and chaos in the world seems to be exactly what Putin is after — with Russia conveniently standing by to pick up the pieces.
10 | Nuclear Threat
According to the Federation of American Scientists, Russia possesses 7,300 total nuclear warheads, with 1,790 being operational. The U.S. has 1,750 active strategic nuclear warheads. The exact number of Russian nuclear warheads is a state secret and therefore a matter of guesswork. Despite attempts to reduce the nuclear arsenals of both countries, Russia refuses to alter the production of its tactical nuclear weapons. In 1992, the highest-ranking Russian intelligence defector Stanislav Lunev described alleged Soviet plans for using tactical nuclear weapons for sabotage against the United States in the event of war.
11 | Sub-par Cuisine
Say you’re having a dinner party and invite all the countries in the world. What would Russia bring? Unless a commie Bond villain with a penchant for expensive caviar and vodka is on the guest list, you’re probably going to get stuck with some borscht, fish pie and cold potato salad. Thank goodness you invited Italy.
Thanks, but no thanks, Russia. We’ll pass on the food — and the friendship — for now.
MIKHAIL KLIMENTIEV/AFP/Getty Images