Survey: US-Russia Experts Pessimistic of Improved Bilateral Relations

July 16, 2018

While President Donald Trump says the US-Russia relationship is on a new path, the relationship may be too negative and full of historic baggage to improve any time soon, according to a new survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Levada Analytical Center. Russian and US experts from media, academia, and research institutes were interviewed on US-Russia relations for the qualitative survey, “US-Russia Experts Paint a Dim Picture of Bilateral Relations Before Summit,” to determine how opinions in expert circles compared to those of the general public.

Among the key findings, the survey found:

  • Almost all experts in the United States and Russia express scant hope for the US-Russian relationship in the near term. Some, however, could see a path towards improved relations in the distant future.
  • Experts in both countries say that both sides – and both Presidents -are responsible for the strained relationship.
  • They place a good portion of the blame on the United States, particularly for how US leaders have conducted foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.
  • Experts also blame Russia’s recent forays into Western election interference and Russian insecurities about US intentions for the current bilateral difficulties.
  • Another frequently cited source of ill-will on both sides is Russian and US media.
  • Russian and American experts see a real need for cooperation on nonproliferation and arms control.

For the full findings, including direct quotes from Russian and US experts, please download the report here.

This research is made possible by the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.


Selection of US experts: The report is based on a survey among selected US-based experts from the top US universities and research institutes. The Chicago Council Survey team identified researchers in Russia and Eurasia programs from the top 50 think tanks listed in the “2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report,” and selected professors with expertise in US-Russian relations and/or Russian policy from universities identified in the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies 2015 report “The State of Russian Studies in the United States.” The survey was fielded using SurveyMonkey, an online survey platform. The Council initially targeted 186 experts by email on April 9, 2018. The final reminder email was sent on April 30, 2018, and the fielding was closed on May 4, 2018.

Selection of Russian experts: The Levada Analytical Center selected experts from three groups: research institutes (8), academia (7) and the media (4). The participants were about evenly divided between those who were more sympathetic to the Russian government and those more sympathetic to Western ideals. Experts from research institutes included senior fellows, program coordinators and head of departments at top Russian think tanks and other NGOs focused on US-Russian relations. Experts from academia included senior fellows and professors at top Russian universities. Experts from the media included editors and leading journalists at top Russian liberal and conservative media. All hold prominent positions in their institutions and have experience in international relations. The Levada team interviewed 19 experts between April and June, 2018; seventeen interviews were conducted face-to-face and two were conducted via email.