The rivalry between the two contrasting ideologies of the East and West peaked right after the Cold War, but it has never really gone away. Despite the fall of communist governments in the 1990s, communism did not disappear and now after almost two and a half decades, former communist powers are reemerging as global powers.
In 2000, with Vladimir Putin becoming president, things started to change for Russia with high economic growth rate, where unemployment and poverty was reduced by 50% and salaries were doubled. Putin’s popularity was increasing rapidly due to his more open policies. Russia was on course towards remodeling itself as a capitalist economy.
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However, around 2010, Moscow’s policies started to change back again to old Soviet policies, together with an aggressive agenda to increase its influence globally.
The White House has always kept a watchful eye on Russian activities, and in a bid to ensure that Moscow’s return with their old ways doesn’t leave their borders, the U.S. tried to shore up democracy in countries neighboring Russia. However, Moscow decided to flex its muscles this time, and attacked Ukraine and annexed Crimea, sending major reverberations around the globe. Although the Kremlin’s actions were heavily criticized by the West, Russia persisted and has also begun to expand its influence in Middle East.
Russians leaving the country
In a recent survey issued by the independent Levada Center polling group, about 71% of the Russian population believes that America has played a negative role in the world, which is notable proof of the popularity of Putin’s policies.
However, according to statistics from the U.S. State Department, so far in 2015, the total number of Russians applying for a “green card” to immigrate to the U.S. stands at 265,086, an all-time high. This revelation has led to a new debate in the media – if the Russians hate US so much, then why are a huge number of them are applying for green cards?
Furthermore, the State department stats show that about 245,638 Russians gained permits to study or work in U.S. last year, and 3622 were given permanent residence, which is almost twice the average number over the last ten years.
Putin to blame for exodus?
This uptick in immigration to the U.S. can be seen as a sign of the failure of Putin’s governance, as his policies have resulted in poor economic conditions and ultimately people are suffering, forcing them to migrate to other countries in a hope of better life.
A former Russian citizen, Marina Fooksman, highlights the main reason behind the current influx of Russians in North America. She migrated to U.S. several years ago and is currently working as an immigration lawyer in New York. Marina says that, “People I spoke to a few years back, who were happy with Moscow, are now looking for an exit strategy”. According to her, Putin is favoring people close to him in Moscow, and other less wealthy Russians are left with no other option except but to apply for a visa for U.S. to move and try to earn more money, knowing that not being close to Putin will never give them a fair chance to enjoy finer things in Russia.
On the other hand, Putin has been voicing his criticism of organizations as they are hunting down Russian talent and skilled people which is leading to a brain drain in the country. Apart from U.S., a large number of Russians are also immigrating to Europe these days.
Russia’s policy of isolation
According to another analyst, Putin’s policy of isolation, confrontation and hunting down opposition groups has forced many to migrate to other parts of the world in search of better opportunities. However, the general preference has been migrating to the U.S., due to better work opportunities and higher pay.
Keep in mind that the annexation of Crimea came at a steep price to Russia in the form of economic sanctions that have ground down the country’s economy. These are tough times to Russia no matter what the state-run channels claim. The reality is that with an economy that has taken such a severe hit, it;s inevitable that a sizable number of people are looking to emigrate to the U.S. or other parts of the world with greater economic opportunities.