Staunton, August 22 – Russians are less inclined to believe that Moscow’s recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Osetia was useful to Russia and to think that the annexation by their country of these two breakaway republics would be a good idea, yet another echo of Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.
According to a new Levada Center poll, slight majorities of Russians (52 and 51 percent respectively) believe that Abkhazia and South Osetia should be independent states, but far than in August 2008 believe that Moscow’s recognition of the two as independent states was useful to Russia (iarex.ru/news/50138.html).
The poll found that only 25 percent of Russians believe that their country should annex Abkhazia, down from 41 percent in 2006, and that only 24 percent believe it should absorb South Osetia, down from 36 percent eight years ago. The share of Russians who believe the two should be part of Georgia has remained relatively low and constant over that period.
This pattern almost certainly reflects the concerns of Russians about the costs both direct and indirect Putin has incurred by annexing Crimea and likely means that there is far less support for absorbing parts of the former Soviet republics neighboring Russia than there may be for federalization or partition of them.
And that in turn means that any Putin project for the restoration of a larger empire within the borders of a single state is likely to be far less welcome in Russia itself than many in the Kremlin and its partisans elsewhere think, a remarkable development given the massive propaganda campaign the Russian president has unleashed on behalf of that idea.