Staunton, May 3 – Polls show that countries around the world not only have stopped loving or even respecting Russia and Putin but are increasingly ill-disposed to both, Liliya Shevtsova says, a trend that limits Russia’s options however much some in Moscow think they can ignore the attitudes of others or can compel them to change by force alone.
“Even those nations which earlier experienced to us romantic feelings such as the Germans have been cured of that,” the Russian analyst says. “Russia has lost the sympathy of the world community over the last two decades, but a sharp change to dislike occurred after our Crimean ‘gambit’” (ehorussia.com/new/node/16230).
A Pew Research Center poll last year found, Shevtsova points out, that 40 percent of those polled in countries around the world are now critical of Russia, with higher figures in Europe and Israel. Only three countries – Vietnam, Greece and the Philippines – were more positive than negative about Russia.
And the international community also had a negative view of Vladimir Putin, with 78 percent of Europeans saying that they do not trust the Russian president to behave correctly in international affairs. And only in four countries – Tanzania, Greece, Vietnam, and the Philippines – had populations with a more positive than negative view of the Kremlin leader.
As for the United States, only 13 percent of Americans now have a positive view of Putin, down from 42 percent in 2002. Similar if not quite as dramatic declines have occurred in European countries and elsewhere as well, Shevtsova says.
What is especially galling for many in Moscow is that the international decline in positive views of Russia and Putin has occurred even has the world views China more positively. Now, the Russian analyst says, most people around the world view the US and China as the leaders, “already without Russia” and “instead of the triumvirate people in Moscow dream about.”
China is increasingly its positive image not only relative to Russia but also relative to the United States. The Pew surveys showed that the number of countries in which the US is more popular than China had fallen in recent years from 25 to 12.
“Of course,” Shevtsova continues, “we can ignore this lack of sympathy from the rest of the world. As a rule, people don’t love the strong of this world. But they respect them. Russia, however, already cannot compete on this basis with China let alone the United States. And that has consequences even if the Kremlin doesn’t want to acknowledge them.
She points out that “having introduced a sanctions regime against Russia, the West has limited for the Kremlin the chance to use other instruments of influence, including force in particular. The other states, including China, are not burning with a desire to help Russia break out of the sanctions ghetto into which the West has driven Russia.”
Indeed, there are increasing doubts that Russia will risk “demonstrating power” lest it be faced by even more sanctions. Moscow is already compelled “not to take note of the fact that its allies (in particular) Kazakhstan are building bridges with its competitor the United States” or that other countries like Israel can take actions Russia doesn’t like with impunity.
In this context, any use of force in order to imitate great power status will backfire on Russia, Shevtsova says. “Of course, one can agree to assume the role of an outsider state and be ready to wander through the world” for the next centuries. But any such stance will lead to Russia ceasing to be a player in world events.
But that raises an even more immediate problem: how can the current Russian regime remain in power if it rejects such an international role, especially as it has made the reclaiming of exactly that great power status the basis of its legitimacy? Unless Moscow changes course, it almost certainly isn’t going to like the answer.