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logoYesterday afternoon, a new email popped into my inbox...from the U.S. Department of State. About a month before the Sochi Olympics, my parents enrolled me in the State Department's STEP Notification System for the Russian Federation. "STEP" stands for "Smart Traveler Enrollment Program." After the Volgograd train bombing, they were concerned about my train travel to Sochi, but there was no hesitation or fear on my part and I gladly boarded Russian Railways in February, en route to Adler to attend the Olympics. The purpose of STEP is to alert American passport holders of potential dangers and risks associated with travel to various countries. Such alerts are always dramatic, and completely designed to advise travelers of the worst case scenarios they may encounter. The only thing I find useful about the Alerts is that they specify which U.S. Embassies remain open in various regions. Yesterday, the State Department released an updated Alert for travel to the Russian Federation as follows:

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens in Russia to the on-going tensions along the border with Ukraine and the potential for clashes between pro-Russian groups and Ukrainian forces. This supersedes the Travel Alert dated July 22 to provide updated information on the security situation along Russia's border with Ukraine and will expire on December 31, 2014.

The U.S. government currently has no information concerning active armed clashes inside Russia or that there are any threats specific to U.S. citizens. However, all U.S. citizens located in or considering travel to the border region of the Russian Federation, specifically the districts immediately bordering Ukraine in parts of Bryansk, Kursk, Belgorod, Voronezh, and Rostov Oblasts and Krasnodar Krai, should be aware that the tensions described in the State Department's Travel Warning for Ukraine have the potential to jeopardize the safety and security of U.S. citizens traveling or living in those regions

A state of emergency, declared by the Russian government, continues to be in effect in the Rostov Oblast bordering Ukraine. The situation along the border is unpredictable and could change quickly.Armed, pro-Russian groups are reportedly traveling illegally across the border into Ukraine and could increase the potential for clashes in Russia near the border, and pose a heightened risk for kidnapping and hostage taking. Negotiations and discussions between Ukraine and Russia are on-going regarding the integrity and control of the international border between the two countries. A formal, permanent mechanism to guarantee security on the border has not yet been established. Given the on-going volatility of the situation, U.S. citizens are strongly advised against traveling by land from Russia to Ukraine through this region.

U.S. citizens considering travel to the border region in Russia should evaluate their personal security situation in light of these political tensions, and the possibility of violence or anti-U.S. actions directed against U.S. citizens or U.S. interests. U.S. citizens who choose to remain in areas where Russia has declared a state of emergency or other border regions should maintain a low profile and avoid large crowds and gatherings.

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens in Russia to avoid all public demonstrations, whether properly authorized by local officials or not, and avoid any large crowds and public gatherings that lack enhanced security measures. U.S. diplomatic facilities in Russia have been the target of frequent demonstrations. Demonstrations related to the conflict may appear anywhere throughout Russia, at any time. These demonstrations may increase the possibility of confrontation and violence. Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates. Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security.

The American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow assists U.S. citizens in Russia. The Unit can help you with passport issuance and renewal, voter assistance, notarials, and registering a child born abroad. It also provides emergency services for U.S. citizens in case of a disaster or in case of illness, arrest, death or destitution while in Russia.

****************************************************************************

I don't see anything scandalous written here, but my question is whether the FSB or some other Russian government agency issues similar warnings for Russian citizens traveling abroad? Are there any such warnings for travel to America or Ukraine? If so, please send me the links because I would be interested in reading them.

In general, I haven't been following the ongoing conflict in Ukraine very closely over the past month. To try to get accurate information online is almost impossible. Each side advocates a certain position, has troops and military leaders who back up the statements, and even photographic evidence. Yet, each side contradicts the other. The only people who know are those on the ground, or civilians in the areas impacted by the fighting. YouTube videos, pictures...all easily doctored and manipulated with modern technology, so I don't even trust the images put out through these mediums.

A reader wrote me today that he believes Russians face much less propaganda than Americans when it comes to events in Ukraine, and other global conflicts. Well, this is a very interesting theory but I believe Americans are more critical of their government's foreign policy actions than Russians. This can be supported by approval ratings for our leaders - Obama's current approval rating is currently about 40%; Putin's approval rating 85%. Maybe even higher after his anti-Western speech in Sochi. So, please, when people write to me with the very common Krembot response - "but what about IRAQ, SYRIA, LIBYA" keep those approval ratings in your mind. They mean something...



Comments

( 134 comments — Leave a comment )
pro100_petrov
Oct. 25th, 2014 06:12 pm (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Oct. 25th, 2014 06:15 pm (UTC)
150 countries?!? If I understand the article correctly, it bans travel even for personal or vacation reasons, where the officers will not even be in uniform?
(no subject) - pro100_petrov - Oct. 25th, 2014 06:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
qi_tronic
Oct. 25th, 2014 06:17 pm (UTC)

www. mid. ru/brp_4.nsf/newsline/668AD8A2ADCB292C44257CB60061176F

It basically says that USA kidnaps Russian citizens in some countries.


About the ratings ... it only shows how some leader meets the expectations of the masses.

Putin's ratings were not that high before the returning of Crimea.
pro100_petrov
Oct. 25th, 2014 06:20 pm (UTC)
I m not sure if it is correct to call it "kidnap".
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 25th, 2014 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Oct. 25th, 2014 06:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 25th, 2014 06:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
oldnemesis
Oct. 25th, 2014 06:31 pm (UTC)
The travel alert text didn't change since the last time I checked it in Jul. And in any case, the Dept of State alerts are mostly on the paranoid side - for example, they've been warning against traveling in the whole Mindanao region (Philippines) while only very certain and specific parts of it are dangerous.

Regarding the propaganda, you're right. Please remind the leader we do not have five state-sponsored TV stations here in the US - and it is a rare case to have something like NPR and Fox to agree on something. We don't have the propaganda agencies hired by the state to write LJ posts and comments. Neither do we have many speech-restricting laws Russia has.

80%+ ratings are typical for dictators, and the more cruel the dictator, the higher the rating. I'm sure Stalin would achieve no less than 100%. But through the Russian history as soon as dictator dies in two years everyone gonna talk what a total piece of shit he was, so those ratings are essentially meaningless.
peacetraveler22
Oct. 25th, 2014 06:33 pm (UTC)
I think there's bias in all media, regardless of the country. However, you are 100% right. If Russians think American media doesn't portray both sides of the political sphere, they have never watch the Fox New Channel. Seems this channel's sole mission is to spend 80% of their time roasting Obama's ass and criticizing every component of his policy. Both domestic and abroad.
(no subject) - oldnemesis - Oct. 25th, 2014 07:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - oldnemesis - Oct. 25th, 2014 09:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Фашизм в нас:( - andrey_kaminsky - Oct. 26th, 2014 05:41 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Фашизм в нас:( - oldnemesis - Oct. 26th, 2014 08:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Фашизм в нас:( - andrey_kaminsky - Oct. 26th, 2014 09:41 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Фашизм в нас:( - oldnemesis - Oct. 26th, 2014 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Фашизм в нас:( - andrey_kaminsky - Oct. 26th, 2014 06:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 25th, 2014 06:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oldnemesis - Oct. 25th, 2014 07:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
elena_88888
Oct. 25th, 2014 06:37 pm (UTC)
I was going but you already got links ;))
peacetraveler22
Oct. 25th, 2014 06:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks! My readers are very responsive and helpful, as always. :)
(no subject) - elena_88888 - Oct. 25th, 2014 06:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - elena_88888 - Oct. 25th, 2014 08:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
tvar_esho_ta
Oct. 25th, 2014 06:49 pm (UTC)
Shannon, personally, I believe source of Putin's approval rating at 85% quite different from masterful propaganda. Russians always was suspicious of government agenda, especially since Yeltsin and his "happy oligarchs" time. We prefer to compare information from different sources. And some of us come to western Net and start to follow Guardian, BBC, CNN, DW or NYT (name any actually) years ago. Quietly. And we were greatly disillusioned in result. Mainstream western media have a colossal bias against Russia and all things Russian. And perfect set of dual standards to boot. Watching the situation from Russian and western media, comparing media truth to fact I know as person, living in Russia, for myself I had come to simple truth: "West" (and US as a West leader) continuously underestimated or outright violated sentiments, points of view and interest of Russia. So it is not unusual for substantial part of us, Russians, to consider US and West as an opponent if not an enemy. We, simply, do agree with our President. So Putin is a moderate representative of a broad spectrum of Russians. Some of us still hope for some kind of understanding with US, some - already gone to personal war against "Imperialists", but we do agree to follow President Putin on International policy Issue so far.
Main problem, imo, the "western" and US officials do not understand how outraged some of Russians feel at the moment and continue to believe Putin somehow "forced or manipulated" Russians to follow him. It may be disaster for whole this world at the end.
oldnemesis
Oct. 25th, 2014 07:11 pm (UTC)
With all due respect, if "point of interest" of Russia includes invading neighbor countries and attempting to install a puppet government there, you should be very naive to expect any reasonable person to respect such interests. Same way I'm pretty sure you don't really respect the interest of a Gopniks in your cell phone.

On the other side, this is what USSR has been doing since 1917. They just didn't stop.
(no subject) - seadevil001 - Oct. 25th, 2014 08:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oldnemesis - Oct. 25th, 2014 09:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 25th, 2014 07:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
kremlin_curant
Oct. 25th, 2014 06:51 pm (UTC)
Who cares in russia for the people life? Warning for not traveling into some countries may have only political sense in case this specific country may be at odds with Kremlin regime.
peacetraveler22
Oct. 25th, 2014 07:39 pm (UTC)
Or, health risks like the recent travel warnings for Africa due to the ebola epidemic, which is quickly making its way to the States.
(no subject) - kremlin_curant - Oct. 25th, 2014 08:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
juan_gandhi
Oct. 25th, 2014 07:04 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine FSB caring about Russian citizens' fate or life, unless they are their asset... and even then.

Regarding information, you can check out hromadske.tv; they speak Russian half of the time, and they sound pretty much balanced. BBC is also a relatively reliable source; the problem with them that they are applying smoothing filters to everything.
pro100_petrov
Oct. 25th, 2014 07:09 pm (UTC)
>pretty much balanced
:)) laugh-laugh
(no subject) - juan_gandhi - Oct. 25th, 2014 07:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - pro100_petrov - Oct. 25th, 2014 08:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
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a_nimaida
Oct. 25th, 2014 09:53 pm (UTC)
US going to war with Russia?
peacetraveler22
Oct. 25th, 2014 09:55 pm (UTC)
Economic war, yes. But not dropping bombs. At least that I'm aware of. Have you seen any?
(no subject) - a_nimaida - Oct. 26th, 2014 04:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 26th, 2014 05:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - a_nimaida - Oct. 26th, 2014 05:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
callbarsis
Oct. 26th, 2014 04:22 am (UTC)
Nope. Not only have I never heard about FSB doing anything like that but this very idea contradicts the common understanding (mine, of other Russians, and of FSB officers themselves) of what FSB should be doing.

Their mission is to protect the state (gosudarstvo), not its people. I've lived in Russian, Far Eastern and Western cultures, and been trying to, sort of, extract the essence of my native culture (and/or mentality), Russian. Came up with this: low value of and respect for human personality, dignity and life - firmly ingrained in people's minds. What do you think, Shannon?

Yes, it's a negative definition: says what's not there. To come up with a positive one would be a lot harder.

BTW, my new home country, Canada, for safety reasons discourages me from going to Russia - and not only now, the warning has been on the official site for years. At first it was mind-blowing, but I'm gradually getting used to the idea.
peacetraveler22
Oct. 26th, 2014 06:05 pm (UTC)
Hi! I'm used to only seeing you on Instagram. :) "Low value of and respect for human personality, dignity and life - firmly ingrained in people's minds..." I can't really speak to this because I've never lived in Russia, or had to rely on the government for infrastructure, assistance and basic livability issues. But, there's a reason for all the sad, gloomy faces walking around. Perhaps the foundation for the gloom is the reasons you stated.
(no subject) - callbarsis - Oct. 26th, 2014 10:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 26th, 2014 10:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
moonrainbow
Oct. 26th, 2014 05:20 am (UTC)
MID - Ministry of Foreign Affairs - regularly issues travel alerts and publishes them on its site and in the media. I remember at least several recent travel alerts against traveling to Egypt (during Tahrir events), Libya (during the civil war) and Istanbul (again during the mass protests). I don't remember one related to the Ukraine, but that's probably because -

- no one really takes these travel alerts seriously. :)

It is so irrelevant that the people tend to forget the very fact that travel alerts have actually been issued!

Very good example is this blog. People don't even remember anything. They speculate about absence FSB alerts and don't even recall that FSB is an internal intelligence services and foreign affairs are simply outside their area of responsibility. It is pretty much the same as requesting FBI to restrict travels to Liberia! :)))) The fact that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did its job to warn against traveling to certain areas is not kept in memory.

Now, of course, as I mentioned this, some people will recall. But before we see a few pages of speculations. :))))

Edited at 2014-10-26 05:22 am (UTC)
moonrainbow
Oct. 26th, 2014 05:39 am (UTC)
The events in the Ukraine are tragic. This is a civil war fired up in a peaceful country by the violent fascist gangs at Maidan and politicians, both internal and external to the country.

Looking at the behavior of the parties in this conflict I am seriously scared the world is becoming unsafe and closer to the major war as never since the end of the Cold War.

And unfortunately the position of the US government is perhaps what makes the situation worst. They backed Maidan that brought up the worst scum of politicians I have seen in the already shitty Ukrainian political landscape - nationalists and oligarchs who ignite the war to keep themselves at power.

So far Russia managed to avoid direct intervention in that war. Had Russia not acted in Crimea, the war would be already there and the Black Sea fleet with military troops stationed in Sevastopol and around would be involved into it. Had Russia invaded Donbass as many nationalists wanted, we'd be an agressor and would already be in a full scale regional war.

We managed to get out of both dangers. But I am still scared that there are powers in the world that still want Russia to step into war. Crimea was a better place to start it, but the events in Donbass are not yet over. And there are other sensitive regions.

Ukraine is a pawn. But the geopolitical players can't play a pawn if it is doesn't want to be played. Unfortunately, the people in Kiev were stupid enough to blow their country and let the geopolitical powers use them as a pawn - instead of requesting peace in the country by giving the East of their country what they demanded and settling things instantly. Now Ukraine ceased to exist as we knew it. Will it reclaim Donbass and not lose other regions, is questionable. But Crimea is gone forever.

Edited at 2014-10-26 05:40 am (UTC)
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 26th, 2014 05:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - seadevil001 - Oct. 27th, 2014 02:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
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creaze
Oct. 26th, 2014 05:42 am (UTC)
> I don't see anything scandalous written here, but my question is whether the FSB or some other Russian government agency issues similar warnings for Russian citizens traveling abroad? Are there any such warnings for travel to America or Ukraine?

Not sure that i could send a link to a specific warning like this. Sometimes in the news you would come across a short message from our foreign ministery, advising people not to travel to a certain country. Usually it's not until an open conflict, serious riot or natural disaster erupts in this country.

Don't ever remember that kind of warning ever issued about US.
peacetraveler22
Oct. 26th, 2014 06:08 pm (UTC)
Because Americans aren't really hostile to Russian people. :) Putin and the Krelim maybe, but not the average Russian citizen. I think you would feel this if you ever walked the streets of America. Have you visited the USA?
"We are not hostile to people, - (Anonymous) - Oct. 26th, 2014 09:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "We are not hostile to people, - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 26th, 2014 10:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "We are not hostile to people, - (Anonymous) - Oct. 26th, 2014 11:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: "We are not hostile to people, - creaze - Oct. 27th, 2014 06:08 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - creaze - Oct. 27th, 2014 06:05 am (UTC) - Expand
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andrey_kaminsky
Oct. 26th, 2014 06:20 am (UTC)
Это всё ненужная бюрократия:)
Russian tourists don't need such a silly warnings, because there are not to many states with less respect for human rights than Russia . Аnd they all are well known, without any warning.
My government is actively working to ensure that i have a similar reasons not to visit some countries:
http://mi3ch.livejournal.com/2721003.html

Edited at 2014-10-26 07:41 am (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Oct. 26th, 2014 06:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Это всё ненужная бюрократия:)
Yes, bureaucracy! It exists in every nation. "Less respect for human rights..." and how does the Russian government violate your human rights personally? It's a serious question. I'm very curious.
olegpro
Oct. 27th, 2014 02:07 pm (UTC)
All of a sudden US authorities expect military escalation of Ukrainian conflict. No direct orders to the independent Ukrainian government involved, of course.
peacetraveler22
Oct. 27th, 2014 02:30 pm (UTC)
It's not "all of a sudden." Almost the same travel alert was issued in July and even earlier in 2014.
(no subject) - olegpro - Oct. 28th, 2014 11:02 am (UTC) - Expand
olegpro
Oct. 28th, 2014 11:47 am (UTC)
Lets assume that Obama's foreign policy approval is 40% and declining. So what does it mean? Does it mean that disapproval originates cause people expect decreasing military activity abroad or do they expect increasing it instead? Or is it cause both parties aren't satisfied with the status quo?
fortunatus6
Nov. 15th, 2014 12:35 am (UTC)
Please tell me, America is on another continent, why is your government intervenes in Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and everywhere, many conflict-affected people?
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