Staunton, February 2 – Only one in four Russians now backs the notion that the Kremlin should use all means, including military ones, to maintain and/or restore Moscow’s control over the former Soviet republics, a decline from 35 percent in September 2015 who backed that idea and slightly smaller than the 27 percent who did in 2014 after the Crimean Anschluss.
According to the independent Levada Center which conducted these polls, an even more important development is that 29 percent of Russians in the latest survey totally oppose the use of force in pursuit of such a goal, the highest share ever recorded (znak.com/2017-02-02/rossiyane_stali_menshe_zhelat_uderzhaniya_postsovetskih_stran_pod_kontrolem_rf).
That key figure is up from 15 percent in September 2015 and 27 percent a year earlier.
At least some of this shift must reflect war weariness on the part of the Russian population which can see that their soldiers are fighting in a foreign country despite the Kremlin’s constant denials on that point and which are suffering from cutbacks in butter in favor of arms.
Obviously, such attitudes will not preclude Vladimir Putin from engaging in more aggression; but they are a reminder to him and everyone else that such exercises may not be as enthusiastically welcomed as the Kremlin leader hopes. And that in turn makes such use of force less useful to him domestically, especially as he heads toward reelection.