Monday, July 9, 2018

Only 38 Percent of Russians Now Say They Trust Putin, Lowest Since 2013

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 8 – According to a new VTsIOM poll, only 37.9 percent of Russians now say they trust Vladimir Putin, a figure down five percent in the last two weeks and one near where it was in 2013 before the Kremlin leader invaded Ukraine and occupied and annexed Crimea (

            On the one hand, that figure is not terribly low by international standards. Many presidents and prime ministers in the West with equal or even lower figures remain in office and often do not feel compelled to change direction either because they have been elected for a specific term or have the necessary votes in parliament.

            But on the other, for Putin, who has the power of a dictator but who has claimed legitimacy because of overwhelming public support, these figures are worrying, not because they mean the Kremlin leader faces a direct challenge or that he will be forced to change direction in the ways the population wants.

            Putin is unlikely to retreat on pension reforms or anything else: his personal style is to strike out rather than retreat and to seek to recover his legitimating majority by playing on patriotic feelings by seeking a new foreign policy victory.  That is what he did in 2014 with his invasion of Ukraine.

            And consequently, these new figures mean that he is likely to be more dangerous now than in some time, especially that these poll figures have been accompanied by the suggestion of some commentators that Putin may remain president but he is no longer a leader. Rather they say, he is out of touch (

            Most analysts are suggesting that he will seek to recover his standing by a new act of aggression abroad; but others say that he will at least first try to mobilize Russians at home either by positing a threat from abroad or some danger from within (

            One potential target, similar in its indefiniteness to “enemy of the people” in Stalinist times is “Russophobe,” a charge Putin might deploy against various groups to mobilize the Russian population in the name of defending Russian sovereignty. In that event, the first victims of Putin’s effort to win back support would be the Russians themselves.

            But just as Stalin’s campaign against “enemies of the people” did not stop at the Soviet border, any Putin campaign against “Russophobes” would likely soon taken on an international dimension as well (

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