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Most Unfavored Nation Status

The aftermath of Obama’s ‘secret letter‘ to Russia has been pretty engrossing. From allegations of quid pro quo, to open assaults on his foreign policy, the event suggests just how polarizing Russia has become, as a host of issues paramount to U.S. security again revolve around its orbit. Along these lines, The Washington Post explains why bargaining with Russia, “the lesser of two evils,” may in fact be preferable to bargaining with Iran.

But more interesting, perhaps, is a Gallup poll ranking America’s most favored nations that the Post links to, which shows the precariousness of Americans’ attitude towards Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, especially when compared to Mexico. Statistically, Mexico is only slightly more favored that Russia (with China betwixt). But since 1990, Americans’ opinion of Mexico has oscillated at a fairly benign, predictable clip: opinion soured in the year following NAFTA’s signing, but then grew increasingly favorable until recent years, when (one assumes) the issue of immigration fostered anti-Mexican sentiment.

The graph of “Americans’ Overall Opinion of Russia” since 1989, however, looks like the lie detector test results of Barry Bonds, with huge oscillations in 1991, and a period of fairly steady support until 1999, when all hell breaks loose.