WASHINGTON, September 17 (RIA Novosti) - Americans’ distrust of Russia has increased over the past year, and their confidence in Syria is almost nonexistent, which means few Americans expect the deal hammered out by US and Russian diplomats to get Damascus to give up its chemical weapons will amount to much, a poll published this week shows.
The number of Americans who expressed a fair amount to a great deal of trust in Russia fell from 33 percent in 2012 to 24 percent this year, while more than two-thirds of Americans – 68 percent – said they have little if any trust in Russia, the poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found.
Last year 60 percent of Americans told Pew pollsters they didn’t trust Russia.
Americans have the same level of distrust for Russia as they have for Saudi Arabia, according to the poll, and they trust Russia slightly less than they do China.
Syria was not included in last year’s Pew poll, but Americans responded in the single digits when asked this year if they trusted the Middle Eastern country: just 8 percent said they had a fair amount or great deal of trust for Syria, while 85 percent said they had little confidence in Damascus.
But asked if they approved of President Barack Obama’s decision to hold off on military strikes against Syria and seek a diplomatic solution instead, two-thirds of Americans – 67 percent – said yes and 23 percent said no.
A majority of Americans (57 percent) were doubtful that Syria would actually give up control of its chemical weapons in response to the diplomatic efforts that culminated in a deal on Syria’s chemical arsenal being struck in Geneva last week after tense negotiations between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The deal sets a tough timeline for Syria to submit to the international community an inventory of its chemical weapons and details on where they are stored, and calls for international inspectors to be on the ground in Syria by November, when the first phase of destruction of components used to make Syria’s chemical weapons is set to begin.
All components of the chemical weapons program are to be removed from the country or destroyed by the middle of next year, according to the agreement, which also calls for tough penalties if the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad fails to comply.
Obama has said that the United States “remains prepared to act" militarily in the event that diplomacy should fail, but 37 percent of Americans told Pew that they would back military intervention even if the deal fell apart, and 49 percent said they were against possible US strikes.
A separate poll conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News came up with similar results, with 48 percent of Americans saying they would be against US military intervention in Syria if the deal reached by Kerry and Lavrov were to fall apart, and 44 percent saying the US Congress should approve the use of military force against Syria if diplomacy fails.
Meanwhile, only 4 percent of respondents to The Post-ABC poll said they were “very confident” that Syria would give up all of its chemical weapons, while 68 percent were “not at all” or “not so” confident, and 26 percent were only somewhat confident that Damascus would comply with the deal.
Both polls were conducted by telephone from Sept. 12-15, with Pew interviewing 1,002 US adults and the Washington Post-ABC poll surveying 1,004.
The polls were released at the same time as a survey in Russia found that Russians are feeling increasingly negative about the United States following Washington’s push last month to launch a military strike on Syria in response to allegations that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons on civilians during its civil war.
Thirty-five percent of respondents to the Russian poll, conducted on August 24 and 25, said they felt “generally poor” or “very poor” about America, compared with 30 percent who felt that way in February, the state-run Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) said in an online statement.