Russian sociologist claims Russian public doesn’t want war with Ukraine

1 February 2022, 09:33 PM

In a new column for NV, Russian sociologist and director of polling firm Levada Center Lev Gudkov has analyzed how Russian citizens feel about the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, and its likely consequences.

“People will be extremely upset if war breaks out,” Gudkov writes.

“For now, Russians are alarmed and don’t really see a reason to go to war; We don’t know how that would change their attitudes towards (the Russian) government.”

However, Gudkov thinks that a major offensive against Ukraine would be seen extremely unfavorably by the Russian populace, and that would spill over into falling approval for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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In stark contrast with 2014, Russian public opinion is much more evenly divided on Ukraine. According to the Levada Center, 46% of Russians are sympathetic to Ukraine, with 43% viewing Kyiv negatively.

The Kremlin should not count on the soaring approval ratings it enjoyed after illegally occupying the Ukrainian territory of Crimea: according to Gudkov, military jingoism no longer holds sway over Russians at large.

“Overall, the Russian population is anxious about military rhetoric, hysterical outbursts of local politicians, TV shows, etc.,” said Gudkov.

“There is a certain feeling of helplessness, as ordinary citizens feel they have no influence over their government.”

“(Russians are) afraid of arbitrary punishments, the ratcheting up of repressive measures; a combination of anxiety and powerlessness.”

Gudkov added that Russia’s steadily declining economy is leading to slowly mounting discontent amongst Russian citizens.

Since the end of October 2021, Russia has been massing troops close to the Ukrainian border.

Russia has since deployed more than 130,000 troops and offensive weapons near the Ukrainian border and in the temporarily occupied parts of the country, according to the latest intelligence estimate by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

International media have speculated that Russia may invade Ukraine in early 2022, in an operation that could involve up to 200,000 Russian soldiers.

The situation on Ukraine's eastern border is a matter of deep concern for both U.S. and European officials. According to U.S. President Joe Biden, the White House is looking at a range of options to dissuade Russia from attacking Ukraine.

Biden has defined these measures as “the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people believe he may do.”

While Russia has denied plans to invade, it has also refused to provide assurances that it would not do so, instead issuing its demand for so-called “security guarantees” to the United States and NATO.

Prompted by the looming threat of a new Russian offensive against Ukraine, the United States and Ukraine’s other partner countries have begun to supply Kyiv with weapons.

The United States sees indications that Russia is preparing for a major offensive against Ukraine by mid-February, according to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

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