Staunton, April 29 – Russian polls, admittedly not the most reliable source, suggest that the more aggressive Vladimir Putin is, the more Russians love and support him regardless of the immediate impact of his policies on their lives, a vicious circle that history suggests could lead to a disaster especially given Moscow’s possession of a large army and nuclear weapons.
In a commentary in Kyiv’s “Den’,” Sergey Grabovsky points out that Russian polls show that Putin’s rating among Russians has dramatically increased since the annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s intervention in the Donbas and that Russians feeling about their own situation have also become more positive (day.kiev.ua/ru/blog/politika/strana-rabov-strana-gospod).
And he cites the words of Valery Fedorov, the head of the VTsIOM polling agency, for an explanation: “The economic crisis is not as deep as many feared it would be; expectations were much worse. In addition, in the last year, the self-evaluation and self-respect of Russians grew.”
That trend, the Kremlin-linked pollster says, “is directly connected with Crimea, with the conflict in Ukraine, with the fact that we now are not simply competing with the US but in conflict with that country, and this, in the opinion of the majority of Russians means that we are comparable in greatness.”
Such feelings, Fedorov suggests, are “a very important element of the self-assessment” of Russians.” Given their improved feelings about themselves on this basis, he adds, Russians have been “anesthetized” against the impact of any economic problems they may face in their day-to-day lives.
Grabovsky argues that this shows that for “the absolute majority of Russians,” the three factors that explain their positive feelings about themselves and about Putin are “foreign aggression, conflicts with world leaders, and wars on Ukrainian territory. Everything else for ‘the devoted people’ is not so important,” and their expectations for themselves remain low.
All of this might not matter much, he continues, “if Russia were not an enormous state with nuclear weapons and a large land army.”
But it is, and that means that “the despotic, neo-totalitarian power (one of the main characteristics of totalitarianism is the impossibility of the rotation of ruling groups) has at its command tens of millions of ‘slaves’ who do not recognize the real danger for themselves and are ready to support the acts of ‘the national leader’ and his people right up to ‘the red line.’
That is, Putin has “tens of millions” of supporters “who are intoxicated not only from alcohol but from global conflicts and local wars [and] who are prepared to suffer serious problems in the name not of freedom, humanism, or national flourishing but in order that someone else as a result of Russian actions will live badly.”
That in turn has led within Russia to the flourishing of an autocratic state, xenophobia, and a personality cult, Grabovsky says. And as various cases from the history of the last century show, that can lead to disaster. Russia’s possession of nuclear weapons compound that problem and mean the disaster ahead could be far worse.
According to the Ukrainian commentator, there is only one way out of this vicious circle: “Russia with the help of the efforts of the international communist must be stripped of its weapons of mass destruction. Once and for all so that the planet will be protected against the rise to the head of this state of the latest ‘titan.’
Otherwise, Putin or some future leader will be driven in that direction “not for the defense of freedom or the increase of the well-being of the population” but gain support for “aggressive attacks on its neighbors” and the use of “a threat of nuclear attacks on all who do not agree” with him.