ISSN 2330-717X

‘Donbas Consensus’ Limiting Impact Of Sanctions – OpEd

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The West, in imposing sanctions on Russia, “did not consider” Russia’s unique characteristics and especially the way in which such pressure on Russia inevitably leads Russians not to fragment as the West would like but to unite even more closely, according to participants in a roundtable at the Moscow Expert Institute of Social Research.

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Aleksandr Rudakov, a political scientist says that “a Donbass consensus has taken shape in Russia,” one like the Crimean consensus of eight years ago in that both are based on the conviction of most Russians that the country is on the right course. Polls confirm this, according to Mikhail Mamonov of VTsIOM (ura.news/articles/1036284500).

Russians consider that it is far more important to defend Russia against cultural and military threats than against economic ones and thus view efforts to get at them via the economy as a mark of weakness on the part of the West. And so, even when they don’t agree with Putin on many things, they are rallying around him in the face of cultural and military threats.

According to Mamonov, “70 percent of Russians consider that their country’s multinational composition unites the country and makes it stronger.” And that view, he insists, means that “attitudes toward sanctions are the same throughout all of Russia including in the non-Russian republics.”

Igor Kuznetsov of the Russian Society of Political Scientists says that the Donbass consensus has specific historical roots in Russia. “For us,” he argues, “the state is a means of identification. The loss of the state or the loss of face is a breakdown in historical continuity” and thus must be countered.

According to Vitor Poturemsky of the Institute of Social Marketing, such attitudes are to be found among young people as much or more than the old because younger people see the course Russia has now entered on as a chance for great achievements and individual and collective transformation.

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Antonina Selezneva, a Moscow State University sociologist, agrees. She says that young Russians today sense that they have a chance to be involved in “a great national project, to be included in significant processes, and to be proud of their country.” Economic hardships are in this case secondary.

But the biggest mistake the West made was not to target its sanctions more narrowly but to structure them in such a way that they have hit the entire population, Aleksey Martynov of the Institute of New States. Not surprisingly, having been collectively affected, they have responded collectively in exactly the opposite way to that the West wanted.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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