Staunton, Mar. 12 – Many Russian opponents of Putin’s war in Ukraine and many Western ones as well believe that Russians now support the war because they don’t have enough information and that if they are given enough, they will come to their senses and become opponents of Putin’s aggression, Vladimir Pastukhov says.
But that is a mistake, the London-based Russian commentator says. The problem lies not in a lack of information but in the way the Kremlin has encouraged Russians to think about all criticism. Any criticism is not to be considered but rather responded to by charges that the other side is even worse (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=622C756C7FB28).
If anyone asks a Russian whether he backs the Russian military operation in Ukraine and then shows him a picture of ruined Ukrainian cities, the Russia won’t take that evidence into consideration but instead will respond as the Kremlin wants by asking “why do the nationalists blow up their own women and children by using them as human shields.”
The same thing has become true about almost all other issues: if Russians are presented with evidence of Kremlin mistakes and even crimes, Russians will respond not to the criticism but insist that others are doing worse and will turn criticism of the regime back against the critic, the London-based Russian analyst says.
“The problem is not that the population doesn’t have information but that they don’t want to have it,” Pastukhov says. “The masses have been indoctrinated in such a way that any information which doesn’t fit into its comfort zone” will generate a response intended to put the critic on the defensive rather than respond to his evidence.
Given that, he continues, those who want to change minds must never come with only one argument but with a number of them so that when Russians respond as they do now, one will be in a position to throw back yet another against those who refuse to take the evidence laid before them.
“Primitive anti-war propaganda” which works with people “who don’t have an altered consciousness” won’t work with Russians today, Pastukhov concludes. And those who want to change Russian minds about the war and anything else must recognize that they are dealing with a population whose mental states have been fundamentally altered.