Staunton, August 18 – Seventy-eight percent of Russians say that they are concerned about the isolation of their country and sanctions as a result of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine but 70 percent of them say that Russia should continue to act as it has and is rather than changing course or otherwise seeking accommodation with the West, according to a new poll.
The Levada Center found that 78 percent of Russians are concerned about the international isolation Russia has landed in as a result of its actions in Ukraine, with 40 percent saying that they are “very” or “quite strongly” concerned (levada.ru/2016/08/18/sanktsii-zapada-i-produktovoe-embargo-rossii/).
These figures are almost unchanged from a year ago when the corresponding numbers were 78 percent and 18 percent and from the year before that when they were 80 percent and 16 percent respectively, the independent polling agency said.
Seventy-two percent of the respondents said that sanctions had had an impact on the economic situation in Russia, with 29 percent saying that this impact was large. But few supported any change in Moscow’s course: 70 percent said Russia should continue, slightly more than the 68 percent who said that in 2014 and 2015.
With regard to Russia’s imposition of counter-sanctions, 33 percent said these harmed the West more than Russia, but 42 percent said they harmed the two equally. At the same time, 58 percent said that these counter-sanctions were important because the West “has begun to respect Russia more.” But 23 percent of Russians said these sanctions were “absurd and harmful.”
Even if one allows for the likelihood that at least some Russians are telling the pollsters what they think the government would like them to say, these figures as a whole suggest that Western sanctions that hit the Russian population as a whole rather than just members of the senior elite have been less than effective.
Not only have Russians responded as people in many countries would be doubling down in support of their government when it is criticized or attacked, but the Russian leadership in general and Vladimir Putin in particular have routinely demonstrated that they do not care very much about whether or not the Russian people suffer.
These poll results should not become the occasion for easing the pressure on Moscow but rather for thinking about ways that hit the elite and Putin’s entourage in particular – including moves against property members of this group have acquired abroad or money they have stashed there and the visas their children have – rather than harming in any way the Russian people.