Staunton, Feb. 25 – Russians are against war, something they understand as a major war involving the West; but with regard to Moscow’s use of force against their neighbors as now against Ukraine, they prefer to think that what is happening there isn’t a “real” war although almost four out of ten fear that it could become such, Aleksey Levinson says.
The Kremlin plays to this schizophrenic thought, the Levada Center sociologist says, by never calling what it does a war but finding one euphemism after another; but its success in doing so reflects the fact that Russians really do make this distinction (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2022/02/24/v-rossii-predpochitaiut-dumat-chto-voiny-net).
Surveys show, Levinson continues, that “Russians do not want war” but that a majority of them supports what might be called “hybrid” military operations against Russia’s neighbors or further afield. Those actions are viewed more as “gestures” than as the start of any real war and they are the kind of assertive behavior that a majority of Russians welcome.
Since 2014, Ukrainians have concluded that a war is going on between their country and Russia, he says. But “in Russia, people prefer to think that there is no such thing.” And what is important” is that a majority is convinced and is likely to remain convinced that Russia’s military actions in Ukraine won’t lead to “a real war.”
Consequently, most Russians are likely to believe that Putin is “playing with the West” not according to Western rules but according to Russian ones and thus support him for helping Russia as he puts it to “rise from its knees.” Only if that changes will the support Putin has even now begin to ebb in a serious way.
At the same time, however, it is noteworthy that “almost 40 percent” of Russians are already beginning to feel “a chill of fear” about the possibility that what is going on in Ukraine could lead to the real war they fear and very much oppose.