Staunton, June 2 – Were Putin’s military campaign in Ukraine to end without the demilitarization of that country and Kyiv’s explicit acknowledgement of its defeat, Russians would find that hard to accept as a victorious outcome, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say in a lead article (ng.ru/editorial/2022-06-02/2_8452_editorial.html).
That is what Russian government statements and propaganda have prepared them for, the paper argues; and the Russian people are almost certain to view anything short of that, including the annexation of the Donbass and other oblasts in the east, as falling short and something the Kremlin may find it difficult to do.
The editors base their argument on the findings of a new VTsIOM poll which showed that the Kremlin did not need to talk about “de-Nazification” because Russians overwhelmingly were prepared to support Putin’s campaign on the basis of military and geopolitical arguments such as keeping NATO as far from Russia’s borders as possible.
These results and the paper’s argument may be a major reason why Moscow has pull back in its talk about the supposed “neo-Nazi” threat from Ukraine. It doesn’t mean that Russians don’t accept it but rather that they are more concerned about other issues and that the regime can count on their backing as long as it can plausibly say it is defending Russian security.
And that in turn gives a powerful reason to conclude, although Nezavisimaya gazeta does not make this point, that as a result of the Kremlin’s propaganda in recent years, Russians will not turn away from Putin and his aggressive war anytime soon and may even support new wars if they are presented as the conflict in Ukraine has been.