It’s complicated

“America and Russia are friends with benefits. By benefits, I mean that they drive each other crazy and in this, they can enjoy utter insanity together.”

– China

When America stepped into Russia’s office he felt the same exact thing he’d felt in the ’60s–nausea. It was as ugly as it had been before, with its green carpet and paneled, beige walls. Nothing changed; not the bookshelves (probably) lined with discourse on socialist thought, not the sturdy oak desk, and not even the way it made him feel dead inside.

Russia looked no different either, her clothes just as black and her lips just as red. At her desk, she’d set up several yarn dolls dressed up to look like different countries and sporting the same soulless smile; there was Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and others.

America stared at her from the other side of the desk in a green leather chair that was as dated as the rest of the office. She said nothing as he watched–half memorized and half horrified–her as she gently fiddled with the dolls, straightening their clothes or fixing their hair.

It wasn’t until then that he noticed the marks on the desk. The little nicks and faint condensation rings were joined by long scratch marks that didn’t look like they were made by a human.

Finally he cleared his throat. Slowly Russia looked up at him, moving only her eyes. “Hello, America. These are my friends. They will be joining us for the meeting today.”

The nausea worsened. He shifted uncomfortably and wet his lips.

“Uh, Russia? I… look, I know the ’90s were hard on you, but…”

“Hm?”

“Those aren’t… those are dolls.”

Her eyes widened and there was something resembling guileless innocence on her face. It was awful.

She asked, “What do you mean? This is Romania, and this is Bulgaria, and this is–I know they’re just dolls!” Her sudden yelling made America jump. “I was testing you!”

He stared at her with big eyes, leaning back in his seat and gripping the arms of his chair tightly–like a slightly deranged cat staring down its enemy.

Russia threw her hands up and continued, “You come here so we can try to make friends, but we can’t do that if you think I’m crazy!”

America relaxed, just a little. “You realize this little thing you’re doing right now is making my suspicions that much stronger? And, whatever. I might think you’re crazy but you think I’m an idiot.”

“You are an idiot.”

After that, they both stared at their laps silently like the awkward frenimies they were. The sound of a ticking clock was just starting to get annoying when Russia finally spoke.

“Let’s start over,” she suggested.

America straightened his posture. “Alright. Hello, Russia. How are you?” He spoke slowly, painfully squeezing out feigned politeness.

Russia mirrored this. “I am fine, America. Thank you for asking. Did you happen to receive the pastila I sent you earlier this week?”

America’s eyebrows shot up. “I… I did. And I, I,” he stumbled, “definitely did not throw them away. They were… very delicious. Thank you.” When he took his eyes off her for just a second, he caught sight of the yarn dolls in his peripheral and a chill ran up his spine. He couldn’t decide which was worse to look at–them or her.

She forced a smile. “Oh. Please, it was my pleasure. I love sharing pieces of my culture with my friends.”

America’s jaw tightened. His fists clenched. The corner of his mouth twitched. His tongue fought with his brain, and if Russia would have looked hard enough she’d see sweat begin to form on his brow.

Don’t do it. Don’t say anything just–just keep it cool.

“Yeah?” He smiled, but it wasn’t the kind that someone would be happy to see. “You share other things with your friends? Like… like your authoritarian government and military oppression and failing ideology and–”

“America…”

“and–damn it!”

America scrambled for an apology, or at least something that could kind of resemble one, but Russia was already getting started with a rant of her own.

Later that day, the little whiteboard on the ugly beige wall would show that there have been 0 meetings since the last incident.

Pastila is Russian dessert, kind of like Turkish Delights.

Read this post’s Behind the Scenes to learn about the history that influences Russia’s and America’s behavior.

Author: Allison Black

Allison is an author, nerd, and international relations major who loves bad political jokes. When she's not writing or gushing about global affairs, she's playing video games. One day she will have a Ph.D., speak Korean fluently, and command an army of chihuahuas.

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