Russian Popular Attitudes Not A Constraint On Putin As Far As His War In Ukraine Goes – OpEd


A new Levada Center poll showing that nearly three-quarters of all Russians would support a decision by Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine as long as Russia retained control of at least some of the territories it has seized has attracted widespread attention, Oleksandr Shulga says.

But that set of views is no surprise, the Ukrainian sociologist says. His Institute for Conflict Studies and Analysis of Russia has found responses among Russians since the war began ( and          

What is much more significant, he suggests, is that Russians will go along and support virtually any decision Putin makes on Ukraine as long as they feel their country got something out of it. Consequently, it is a mistake to think that Russian attitudes act as a constraint on what the Kremlin leader will do.

Neither a massive desire for the war to end nor the aspirations of some that Putin adopt an even harsher line are going to be decisive in his calculations, Smulga says. Neither of these factors is that important in his calculations about the conflict, and those in Russia, Ukraine and the West who think so are deceiving themselves.

Despite grumbling on both sides of the issue, he continues, the Russian people will support post facto whatever Putin chooses to do, a reality that must be recognized and that gives him far more room to maneuver than many think he has, either to end the war or to expand it beyond its current level.

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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