A plea to learn Russian
After doing some quick Googling I came across some figures that surprised me and didn't surprise me. Only about 3% of Russians are considered fluent in English. I honestly expected this to be much higher. Sadly what didn't surprise me (as we have no need for it) less than 1% of Americans are fluent in Russian. So if we incorporate the well known media corruption then you can see at least part of the reason our nations have had such a difficult time trusting each other. A lack of communication. Something so vital yet we are largely going without.
Let us bridge this gap a little bit and learn some Russian, if you speak Russian I'd encourage that you post something similar to the Russian forum.
Я согласен абсолютно! I'm from Pennsylvania and it's definitely strange to people when they find out you are learning Russian. A lot of needless fear mongering and hate for Russia because of our media. I actually came to Duolinguo mid way through my journey learning Russian, I finished the entire course by level 10! Put Now I use it mostly for brushing up on things, as well as other languages I'm into.
To add to your point about how so few Russians speak good English this absolutely true! I actually went on VK to start learning Russian, (it's Eastern Europe Facebook) it was the best decision ever, I met a few good friends of mine from Belarus and Russia there. The main point is though, just search for English learning groups on VK it's in the 1000s I'm not kidding. 1000s of individual pages and groups, each with 100s to 1000s of members all searching for English speakers to practice and learn with, an absolute gold mine for some one wanting to learn Russian!
It's also excellent for immersion!
I currently work as a side job tutor, for Russian students teaching them my native language!
Hopefully we can educate ourselves on Russia, and have a relationship of mutual understanding in the future, not one of blind fear and hysteria. Also! Americans try and learn a bit it's a very in demand language!
Well, they say you can prove anything if you bend statistics the right way.
To look at your numbers from a different perspective, if the 'less than 1% of Americans' mentioned in the OP is only half of one per cent, then that's still 160,000 Americans who speak Russian. That's half the population of Iceland. It's not that low. :)
The 3% of Russians who are fluent in English makes for more than four million fluent English speakers in Russia. That's almost equal to the population of Los Angeles. The figures seem quite good to me.
"That's tragically low though considering our histories together"
I'm not sure how one relates to the other. How many speakers should there be, and how do historical factors affect the figure?
According to the figures given in your OP, there are more fluent English speakers in Russia than people who speak Georgian or Lithuanian as a first language. Nearly as many people in Russia speak fluent English as speak Danish, Norwegian, Afrikaans, Finnish, Slovak or Hebrew.
That figure doesn't even include the millions who are studying but haven't attained fluency. I don't think I'd ever describe the number as 'tragically low'.
Not to mention, dabbling in Russian culture is a bit of fun. Example: On "our" side of the pond, it's the prince who's the frog (from our western European fairy tales). In the Russian version, it's the princess (Царевна Лягушка). I first encountered that story (a long time ago) written in Russian in a children's fairy tale book - the same kind of thing I was read as a child, and the same kind of thing I read to my children from. The pictures were amazing, and fun!
Here's an animated version - standard disclaimer, not as good as the printed version (chuckle): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8-rpTsN5zE
It's funny to know that there are so little Russian speakers because I have two friends who speak fluent English and Russian and their families are fluent in both languages as well. Thanks for sharing this, though, I can't guarantee that I will dive into Russian immediately... (I think three languages are enough for now!)
PREACH! I am learning Russian just because I have family and friends that speak Russian and don't understand stuff they say even though I speak English and a little bit of Canadian French and do sign language. It's fun to learn languages, and let's bridge this gap, make this world a more multilingual and accessible place so that we all can enjoy random conversations in random languages (Russian and Ukrainian included :P) :)
I don't think many of the Russian-speakers on Duolingo need any encouragement to learn English. In their great majority, that's why they're here, and among those learning any other language, it's likely their English abilities are already significant.
Even simply being a Russian learner here has certainly increased my appreciation for Russian culture, or at least Russians' culture. People actually have interesting discussions in the Russian language forum — even posting interesting things like Old Church Slavonic lessons. Easily the 2nd most interesting forum language of those I've visited.