Russia's deep suspicion of the West

Tuesday December 18, 2007

Rupert Wingfield Hayes reports on Russia's view of the outside world after its foreign minister accuses Britain of deliberately sabotaging relations with Moscow.

Living in Moscow, you often get the feeling Russia would really prefer it if the rest of the world just went away and left Russia alone.

Take Moscow itself for example. It is Russia's biggest, most developed and most cosmopolitan city.

But if you can't read the Cyrillic alphabet getting around is almost impossible.

Only in the last year has the immigration department finally relented and starting printing immigration cards in English.

Before that foreign tourists arriving at Moscow's ghastly Sheremetyevo airport could be seen scratching their heads and muttering things like: "What the hell does this mean?"

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Lack of trust

And it is not just tourists that find it hard.

I was recently chatting to the manager of a large Scandinavian company that is investing hundreds of millions of pounds in Russia. I asked him how his company was treated by the authorities.

"Well, it's not so easy," he said with a grin and a shrug. "You often get the feeling they don't really want us here."

"That's extraordinary," I said. "You are bringing investment and jobs and technology to Russia."

"Yes," he agreed.

Russia's attitude to the outside world could be summed up as: "We don't trust you" and, "Thank you, but we can do it ourselves."

Full article here.

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