Russia has engaged in a “war without war and occupation without occupation” in Ukraine, replicating its tactics in Georgia in 2008 and Moldova for more than a decade.[i] Media coverage worldwide emphasizes the tremendous surge in Vladimir Putin’s popularity while Russian government-controlled media trumpet support for pro-Russian insurgents. The conflict in eastern Ukraine has made tacit acceptance of Russia’s annexing Crimea almost a given, with few questioning the popularity of this development inside Crimea itself or within Russia.
Ukraine is far more important to Russia’s rulers than it is to the United States or the European Union. A Eurasian Union is the cornerstone of Putin’s foreign policy, and that union is a far less meaningful entity without Ukraine. Russian leaders refuse to admit that closer Ukrainian ties with the EU might produce economic benefits for the entire region.[ii] Russia’s military leadership perceives Ukraine’s closer economic relationship with the EU as a step toward joining NATO. These concerns, voiced publicly, pale beside a greater threat not to Russia but to Putin’s regime: a prosperous and democratic Ukraine economically integrated with Europe would exist in stark contrast to Putin’s resource-based non-democracy. Ukraine’s turn to Europe is not a threat to Russia and would almost certainly benefit the Russian economy over time, but it is an existential challenge to Putin and Russia’s ruling elite.[iii]
Given that the stakes are far higher for Putin than for Europe or America, and that Russia enjoys clear military superiority over Ukraine, what might curb Russia’s aggression? This article finds some basis for optimism in public opinion: Ukrainians, including Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, have consistently expressed a preference for living in Ukraine, not Russia, and many are willing to fight for it. Russians have expressed opposition to direct Russian military involvement in Ukraine, and in September 2014 tens of thousands staged protests against Putin’s policy.[iv]Putin’s ratings boost from seizing Crimea, while real, is not unusual in comparative perspective and may well be temporary.
Opinion in Ukraine
Surveys in Ukraine have consistently indicated a desire for independence and territorial integrity. Opinion has fluctuated over time, but even in Russian-speaking regions a majority has never favored separation or Russian military intervention.
The referendum on Ukrainian independence in December 1991 indicated that an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians, including a majority of Russian speakers, prefer independence. In the Russian-speaking regions joined to Ukraine in 1954, over half of those voting favored independence (54 percent in Crimea and 57 percent in Sevastopol). In the heavily Russian-speaking Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, major centers of violent separatist activity in 2014, 84 percent voted for independence in 1991.[v]
Surveys in 2014 produced results similar to those in 1991. In March 2014, just before Russia’s invasion of Crimea, a clear majority of Ukrainian citizens stated that they prefer to live in a sovereign Ukraine, with 85 percent of respondents opposing Russian military intervention.[vi]When asked whether the Russian army should be sent to protect ethnic Russians if they were threatened, ethnic Russians living in Ukraine were evenly divided in their response, with 43 percent on each side of the issue. The number of ethnic Russians strongly opposed to seeing Russian troops in Ukraine (32 percent) was greater than the number strongly in favor of such action (23 percent).
A poll by the Democratic Initiative of Ukraine conducted in March 2014 found that 8 percent of the residents of the country as a whole favored separating from Ukraine and joining another state, with the figures ranging from under 1 percent in western Ukraine to a high of 18 percent in the Donbass.[vii]Fewer than 10 percent expressed support for southeastern Ukraine becoming part of Russia. Donbass respondents expressed the strongest support for separatism, at 27 percent.
The referendum Russia organized in March 2014 to ratify annexing Crimea officially claimed that 97 percent of Crimean residents supported separatism. This data is of questionable validity, as the atmosphere was fraught due to Russian provocations. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, noted “misinformation and hate speech used as propaganda,” and urged the authorities in Crimea to account for killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests in the buildup to the referendum.[viii]
The Russian president’s Council for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights reported turnout of just 30 to 50 percent, well below the official 83 percent. Putin’s own Council found that just 22.5 percent of registered voters in Crimea voted for Russian annexation.[ix]CNN polled one thousand Ukrainians one day after the Russian-organized referendum and reported that just 19 percent expressed loyalty to Russia, while 67 percent supported sanctions against Russia and 56 percent felt loyalty to Europe.[x]
Surveys by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology in April 2014 produced results confirming the March International Republican Institute (IRI) data. Although majorities in both Luhansk (60 percent) and Donetsk (71 percent) accepted the Russian media claim that the events on Maidan were an armed coup sponsored by the West, this did not create a demand for separation. Just 16 percent of Luhansk residents supported unification with Russia, while 73 percent supported Ukrainian independence. Few supported armed intervention.[xi]
A major pretense for Russian annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine has been ostensible threats to native Russians and Russian speakers living in these areas. Yet despite a barrage of propaganda from Russian media, surveys in Ukraine have provided no evidence that large numbers of Russian-speakers feel threatened or suffer discrimination. In the March 2014 IRI survey, there was no region of Ukraine where a majority of respondents agreed with the statement, “the rights of Russian-speakers are being encroached upon.” The strongest support for this view was in Donetsk, where 40 percent agreed and 57 percent disagreed. In the entire eastern region, 72 percent disagreed. In eastern Ukraine, only 17 percent supported Russia sending military forces into Ukraine; in the south, Russian intervention was favored by 27 percent.[xii]
Longitudinal data from Ukraine over the past twenty-three years indicate a consistent preference for continued sovereignty and a growing desire for closer ties with Europe. This trend has grown stronger during the months of conflict following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The two high points in support for an independent Ukraine were December 1991 and September 2014. After 1991, hyperinflation and the economic crisis caused support for independence to decline, reaching lows of 56 to 60 percent. Russia’s armed incursion into Chechnya in 1994 caused support for independent statehood to increase, reaching 71 percent. Pro-independence sentiment declined again during the 1997-98 economic crisis. The second Chechen war produced another bump, accentuated by Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008, resulting in 83 percent favoring independence. Support for independence declined again, but in 2014 it reached 90 percent, its highest level since 1991.[xiii]
As a result of Putin’s aggressive policy, an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians now view Russia as their enemy and perceive affiliation with Europe as necessary. In 2009, just one-quarter of Ukrainians thought Russia exerted a negative influence on their country; now the figure is two-thirds.[xiv]According to a Pew Research poll in 2009, a majority of Ukrainians—51 percent—opposed NATO membership, while only 28 percent favored it.[xv]
Two polls by the Ukrainian sociological group Rating illustrate the impact of Putin’s policies.[xvi]
July 2012: 17 percent for NATO membership, 70 percent opposed
July 2014: 44 percent for NATO membership, 34 percent opposed
Continuing Russian pressure in fall 2014 induced more Ukrainians to support support NATO membership. In Kyiv, a growing number of people now prefer to speak Ukrainian rather than Russian.[xvii]
Opinion in Russia
Analyzing opinion data from Russia requires interpretive nuance. The regime has portrayed Russia’s people as nearly unanimous in supporting the annexation of Crimea and providing aid to separatists in Ukraine. While Russians are proud of regaining great power status, a growing number are not willing to pay the economic cost of rebuilding Crimea, much less sacrifice their sons for eastern Ukraine.
Most Russian citizens accepted their government’s media message that Russian speakers in Ukraine were threatened (88 percent) and agreed that Russia’s president should seek to further the interests of those Russian speakers (84 percent).[xviii] But this does not translate into support for armed intervention. While Russians believe that Ukraine would be better off with an economy oriented to Russia and its Customs Union, they do not agree that this is something warranting military action.[xix]
A poll in June 2014 found that more than 90 percent of Russia’s citizens approved of the annexation of Crimea, but they did not agree with the official Russian view that Russian speakers in Ukraine were threatened, or that Ukraine’s relationship with Europe would damage Russia’s economy. Polls at about the same time found that only 5 to 10 percent supported military intervention in Ukraine.[xx]
At no point has a significant share of Russia’s population expressed support for military intervention in Ukraine. In mid-July 2014, two-thirds of respondents in a VTsIOM (All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion) poll said the conflict should be resolved by diplomatic means. Another 22 percent favored “surgical strikes,” and just 11 percent wanted to send Russian troops. In a later survey, only 13 percent thought Russia should send troops to Ukraine even if NATO intervened. A much larger number perceived the threat of war stemming from the activity of the separatists–groups armed and aided, if not organized and led, by Russian “volunteers.”[xxi]
In August 2014, 60 percent of Russian citizens viewed the situation in Ukraine as an internal conflict. VTsIOM General Director Valery Fyodorov suggested this “explains why very few Russians want their army to help the federalist forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”[xxii] An absolute majority of Russians said the Russian leadership should not privilege foreign-policy goals, including “interference” in Ukraine, over attention to “Russia’s social and economic problems.”[xxiii]
Just as many Europeans do not want to pay the price for sanctions imposed on Russia, most Russians oppose paying to rebuild Crimea. Support for paying the cost of annexation has eroded significantly over time. A Levada Center poll conducted in August 2014 showed continuing support for annexation, but the number willing to pay for Crimea dropped from 26 percent in March to 17 percent in September. The share opposed to paying increased from 19 percent to 30 percent.[xxiv]
Domestic public opinion explains Russian officials’ persistent denial that Russian military personnel are participating in the conflict in eastern Ukraine (except “volunteers” and soldiers who have chosen to spend their vacation aiding Russian speakers in Ukraine). President Putin in March 2014 denied that Russians were involved in the occupation of Crimea, but in May acknowledged that the “little green men” were from Russia. Despite this moment of frankness, Russian officials have consistently maintained that contingents in eastern Ukraine wearing identical unmarked uniforms and carrying identical equipment are not from Russia. The rationale for the invasion of Ukraine was what Russian sources describe as an illegal coup against the elected president Viktor Yanukovich, but planning for a possible invasion was done well ahead. One Russian acquaintance described the experience of a family member who served in the military in 2013. The contract soldiers in his elite unit were asked if they would be willing to fight in Ukraine, either officially or unofficially. Those who declined did not have their contracts renewed. This suggests that contingency preparations were underway well before President Yanukovich was forced from office.[xxv]
Russian authorities clearly are concerned about a potential backlash. They have been careful to conceal evidence of Russian casualties in Ukraine. Returned corpses are labeled “Cargo 200,” a designation used in the Afghan War. Dmitri Gudkov, the lone opposition deputy remaining in the Russian parliament (Duma), inquired about thirty-nine Russian paratroopers from the 76th Airborne Division based in Pskov who likely perished in Ukraine. The Ministry of Defense responded that the Russian Federation is not involved in the conflict and that releasing information about specific individuals would violate their right to privacy.[xxvi]The local Soldier’s Mothers group also raised questions. When the St. Petersburg branch of this homegrown NGO joined in asking about the situation, they were denounced as foreign agents.[xxvii]In August 2014, President Putin awarded the 76th Airborne Division the Order of Suvorov for its work in “local conflicts” in previous decades.[xxviii]The timing caused many to believe the honor reflected recent service in Ukraine. The decree (ukaz) is not available on the Kremlin website. Journalists were told that it is not in the public domain.
One of the ways information about dead and injured Russian “volunteers” is reaching the public domain is from reports about individuals punished for divulging this information. In mid- October 2014, Liudmila Bogatenkova, a seventy-three-year-old human rights activist, was detained for reporting information about Russian casualties.[xxix]The website most active in publicizing “Cargo 200” casualties was blocked at the end of September for “nationalism.”[xxx]On September 26, the site posted an item by Konstantin Zel’fianov stating that the number of dead and wounded Russian soldiers and mercenaries was more than four thousand. Zel’fianov added that while some bodies were returned to Russia, many, if not most, were simply thrown into mine shafts.[xxxi]
Intimidation of critics has been both direct and indirect. Levada Center Director Lev Gudkov suggested that the views expressed by Russians in many opinion polls reflect economic coercion: two-thirds of Russians live paycheck-to-paycheck, many on the government payroll, so fear of being fired has a strong influence on what they will tell reporters and sociologists.[xxxii]A better-informed Russian public is likely to have a less positive view of the Ukraine invasion.
Russian media have trumpeted the enormous popularity of Putin’s Ukraine gambit. Western media speak of his “skyrocketing” rating. Putin’s favorable rating increased from about 60 percent to above 80 percent following the annexation of Crimea and remained high until the end of August 2014, when it dipped slightly. But is Putin’s “bump” in popularity unusual for a leader when a conflict begins? And is it sustainable?
Putin’s approval rating increased about half as much as that of George W. Bush following the attacks organized by Osama Bin Laden. A Gallup poll taken 7 to 10 September 2001 gave Bush a 51 percent approval rating, with 39 percent expressing disapproval. In a Gallup poll taken after the attacks, Bush’s rating jumped to 90 percent approval.[xxxiii]
The rise in Putin’s approval rating pales in comparison to the growth in his popularity during the first Chechen War. In July 1999, when he was appointed Prime Minister, Putin registered about 30 percent approval and 30 percent disapproval. By the end of the year, after vowing to “rub out” Chechen fighters “in the outhouse,” his approval reached 80 percent.[xxxiv]
The annexation of Crimea remains popular in Russia, and Putin’s ratings reflect this, though Putin’s approval may have peaked in August 2014. A Levada Center poll at the end of the month indicated a drop from 87 percent to 84 percent approval, with a slight increase in disapproval.[xxxv]
Job approval does not mean voters would support someone’s re-election. George H. W. Bush reached a 90 percent approval rating during the first Gulf War in 1991, but lost the 1992 presidential election. In July 2014, the number of Russians who said they would vote for Putin again was just 52 percent.[xxxvi]By September it fell below 50 percent. Putin’s officials still count the votes, but extensive falsification of vote counts was a major reason for the protests in 2011-12, and there is a risk this could be repeated.
The costs of the Ukraine conflict and rebuilding efforts will be a significant factor in a myriad of ways. Russia’s economy was close to a no-growth situation before the annexation of Crimea resulted in economic sanctions. The ruble fell, stock market values dropped, and capital flight increased. Now many domestic constituencies will get less funding as a result of the war in Ukraine. Economic development projects in Chechnya and the rest of the North Caucasus are being cut to pay for Crimean development. Pensioners have been warned to prepare for increases in “communal services” costs (heat, water, electricity, etc.), and the pension fund has been confiscated to help pay the costs of Crimean annexation.[xxxvii]
While the macroeconomic problems are manageable in the short- to medium-term, negative effects are likely to be felt by individuals, enterprises, and regions more quickly. Negative reactions to these economic consequences will take a further toll on Putin’s popularity.
Despite the dangerous precedent of using armed aggression to revise borders in Europe, neither Europe nor the United States has evinced willingness to pay a significant price to reverse Putin’s annexation of Crimea or prevent the eastern regions of Ukraine becoming another frozen conflict.[xxxviii] European business interests and politicians receiving substantial financial benefits from Russian state-owned companies are leading the effort to rationalize Putin’s behavior, arguing that Russia has legitimate interests in the region and emphasizing the economic costs to Europe from sanctions.
Targeted sanctions and efforts to reduce European dependence on Russian hydrocarbons are important policies that should be maintained for an extended period. Sanctions rarely achieve results in the short term.
The most important area for Western action is the information space. Most Russian citizens appear to have forgotten the lessons of state-run media from the Soviet era. They are less cynical in part because Putin’s regime has effectively chosen themes with popular appeal, but also because the regime continues to aggressively attack independent information sources.[xxxix]Providing alternative Russian-language media could help balance Putin’s propaganda. The European Union should finance this effort, with technical help from the United States. Early 2015, when Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk becomes EU President and Latvia assumes the presidency of the Council of the European Union, would be a good opportunity to establish a new “Radio Free Europe.”[xl]
Public information is crucial to helping Russian elites and ordinary citizens understand the impact of Putin’s policies on their own country. The economic consequences of the Ukraine invasion will take time to develop, but they will be significant.[xli] Non-Russians inside Russia and some Russian regions are already asking why they too should not have real federalism.[xlii] Putin’s fixation on the potential consequences of Ukraine orienting its economy to Europe distracts Russia’s policy focus from more serious threats.[xliii] When some of the North Caucasus fighters currently in Syria return to open an Islamic State front in Dagestan or Ingushetia, the need for a common effort will be more apparent but less achievable.[xliv]
Putin is winning the information war in part because the Ukrainian government genuinely does need to address concerns about Ukrainian nationalist groups and future policies. The armed wings of nationalist organizations helped protect protestors on the Maidan and battled “volunteers” from Russia in eastern Ukraine. However, their presence and potential influence has allowed Putin to portray post-Yanukovich governments as neo-Nazis, so-called Banderovtsy. Russian television has persistently conveyed this message.[xlv]
Ukrainian leaders must clean up their economic system as well as their government. Fixing the damage bequeathed by Yanukovich and his cronies requires difficult measures that will be unpopular. The temptation to use ongoing conflict as an excuse to defer economic reform will be strong. Without steadfast efforts to fix the economy, Putin’s effort to promote instability in the region will continue to be successful.
The United States and NATO need to develop greater capacity to respond to “war without war” and “new wars,” where stealth and deniability obscure the nature of the conflict and insurgents perpetuate instability over an extended period as extortion, expropriation, and kidnapping become their income stream.[xlvi]
The new NATO “rapid reaction” force should be accompanied by establishing “rapid response” peacekeeping groups that threatened governments could invite to areas when the sort of “invasion without invasion” practiced in Crimea and eastern Ukraine is initiated. The new units would be able to provide information about events and could interpose themselves between unidentified paramilitary fighters and local civilians and military units to deter violence. Halting the informal incursions at the outset will be far less costly than dealing with long-term occupations and frozen conflicts.
The appetites of nationalist revanchists rarely are assuaged by victories. They grow. High-level nationalist politicians in Putin’s administration have produced monographs not only defending the Crimean annexation but also advocating Russia’s right to recover Alaska.[xlvii] Putin has said (even if taken out of context) that his forces could be in Kiev in two weeks. They could probably be in Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius in a few hours. An attack on new NATO members may be precisely what Putin views as the way to undermine the alliance.
NATO should do what it can to raise the costs, both economic and military, of continued Russian aggression in Ukraine. Steven Pifer and Strobe Talbott have suggested providing defensive weapons to the Ukrainian government.[xlviii] This is a good start. Enhancing current information sharing and making it clear that other options are under consideration could also help deter aggression.
Finally, it is time to separate Putin and Russia in our discourse. In the current situation, being anti-Putin, far from being anti-Russian, is to be in favor of a healthier and wealthier Russia that is less dangerous to Russians, non-Russians within Russia, and democratic governments now faced with a threatening alternative worldview.[xlix]
Putin’s creeping annexation of former Soviet territory should not be allowed to escalate into a broader armed conflict, but fear of conflict should not deter the United States and Europe from doing everything possible to stop Putin’s aggression. Numerous analysts have noted the broad range of issues on which U.S. and Russian cooperation is essential: terrorism, Iran’s nuclear program, North Korea, Afghanistan, piracy, and others.[l]
If Putin extends the conflict to more of Ukraine or to the Baltics, cooperation on these areas of mutual interest could become impossible. The results of the 2014 U.S. elections will make it even more difficult for the Obama administration to work with Putin’s government. If Putin’s spokespersons continue to present cooperation on mutual interests like terrorism as “favors,” there may be no hope of overcoming U.S. domestic political concerns.
Encouraging Russians who oppose the military conflict with brother Slavs is not only plausible but is also possible. They do not need a regime change but merely need to convince their leader that the current policy is unpopular as well as irrational for Russia’s future. Opinion data indicate that an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians, including Russian speakers, favor independence, an overwhelming majority of Russians oppose military intervention in Ukraine, and Putin’s approval rating has far outpaced his electoral rating as a result of his Ukraine policies. Both ratings have fallen since June. These data offer hope that the policies could be changed. Growing conflicts within Putin’s elite as economic sanctions create competition and tensions could accelerate the process.
Levada Center surveys indicate that 85 percent of Russian citizens believe they have no influence on policy decisions.[li] The regime’s extensive efforts to contain protest, control the media, and thwart civic activism suggest that Russia’s rulers do not share this view: Putin and his cronies remain seriously concerned about public opinion. Doing more to open the information space will help.
[i]Elizabeth Cullen Dunn and Michael S. Bobick, “The Empire Strikes Back: War without war and occupation without occupation in the Russian sphere of influence,” American Ethnologist 41, no. 3 (2014): 405-413.
[ii]Veronika Movchan and Mykola Tyzhenkov, “Economic impact of Ukraine-EU Association Agreement: quantitative estimates CGE model” (Kyiv: Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting), Internet, http://www.ier.com.ua/en/public_events/?e=147 (date accessed: 24 November 2014). Also Anders Åslund, “Ukraine’s Choice: European Association agreement of Eurasia Union?” (Washington, DC: Peterson Institute for International Economics, September 2013). Also Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, “EU Association Agreements Not Seen as Threat to Russian Economy,” The Moscow Times, 26 June 2014, Internet, http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/eu-association-agreements-not-seen-as-threat-to-russian-economy-/502590.html (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[iii]For an excellent discussion of the ways Russia’s elite pursues policies that fail to address the nation’s economic and social needs, see Karen Dawisha, Putin’s Keptocracy: Who Owns Russia? (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014).
[iv]For video of these protests, see: “Thousands protest Russia’s Ukraine policy,” CNN, Internet, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akleO4l-gw4 (date accessed: 24 November 2014). Also “Russians rally against Moscow role in Ukraine,” Aljazeera, Internet, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2014/09/russians-stage-anti-ukraine-war-moscow-201492114729171223.html (date accessed: 24 November 2014). Also “Russian Anti-War Rally,” Ukraine Today, Internet, https://www.facebook.com/uatodaytv/posts/297626593759526 (date accessed: 24 November 2014). Also “Russia Anti-War March: Tens of thousands in Moscow protest Kremlin’s secret war in Ukraine,” UkrStream.TV, Internet, http://ukrstream.tv/en/videos/russianantiwarmarchtens_of thousandsinmoscowprotestkremlinssecretwarinukraine#.VCDXUxbwo1I (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[v]Andrew Wilson, Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s: A Minority Faith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 128. 93 percent of those voting expressed support for Ukraine’s independence, including 55 percent of Russian speakers in Ukraine. In Kharkiv Oblast, 86 percent favored independence, in Odessa 85 percent voted for independence, and in Mikolayiv 89 percent. In the nineteen regions of central and western Ukraine, more than 90 percent voted for an independent Ukrainian state. Of the total eligible electorate in Ukraine in 1991, 76 percent voted for independence. This was a sharp change from March 1991, when Mikhail Gorbachev insisted on a referendum asking people in the Soviet Union whether they favored some type of union of the Soviet republics. About two-thirds of the residents of Ukraine who voted were in favor of the statement: “Do you agree that Ukraine should be part of a Union of Soviet sovereign states on the basis on the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine?” The difference in the outcomes in March and December 1991 is best explained by the failed putsch in August of 1991. When offered a choice between remaining in a Soviet Union where another coup might be staged or becoming independent, Ukrainian residents, including a majority of Russian speakers, voted decisively to go their own way.
[vi]“Public Opinion Survey: Residents of Ukraine” (Washington, DC: International Republican Institute, March 14-26 2014). The survey was conducted by Baltic Surveys and The Gallup Organization for the International Republican Institute, and involved fieldwork by Rating Group Ukraine.
[vii]“Чи властиві українцям настрої сепаратизму?” Democratic Institute of Ukraine, 24 March 2014, Internet [English translation unavailable], dif.org.ua/ua/events/nkdfkedlkrjg-kje.htm (date accessed: 24 November 2014). Also see the analysis in Paul Goble, “Window on Eurasia: Few in Ukraine—Including in the East—Support separatism or joining Russia, poll shows,” 12 April 2014, Internet, http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2014/04/window-on-eurasia-few-in-ukraine.html (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[viii]Nick Cumming-Bruce, “U.N. cites abuses in Crimea before Russia annexation vote,” The New York Times, 15 April 2014. For the full text of the report, see United Nations, “Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine” (New York: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 15 April 2014).
[ix]Data from the Presidential Council cited in Dawisha, Putin’s Kleptocracy, 319.
[x]Richard Allen Greene, “Ukraine favors Europe over Russia, new CNN poll finds,” CNN, 12 May 2014. 37 percent of Ukrainians in the eastern regions Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv favored an alliance with Russia, 14 percent wanted an alliance with the European Union, and half (49 percent) responded that Ukraine would be better off if it did not ally with either. Nationwide, a slight majority (54 percent) said it would be good for Ukraine to join the EU. More than eight out of ten (82 percent) said it would be bad for the country to have Russian troops in Ukraine. Two-thirds (67 percent) described Putin as “dangerous.”
[xi]“The views and opinions of residents of South- Eastern Ukraine: April 2014,” Zerkalo Nedeli Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, Internet [English translation unavailable], 18 April 2014, http://zn.ua/UKRAINE/mneniya-i-vzglyady-zhiteley-yugo-vostoka-ukrainy-aprel-2014-143598.html#comment (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
A helpful summary is available in Steven Pifer and Hannah Thoburn, “Nuanced views in Eastern Ukraine,” 28 April 2014, Internet, http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2014/04/28-nuanced-views-eastern-ukraine-pifer-thoburn (date accessed: 24 November 2014). Only Donetsk and Luhansk produced majorities supporting Yanukovich. The only region in Ukraine where a majority supported federalization was Luhansk. Strong support for armed seizures of administrative buildings was expressed by 12 percent of respondents in Luhansk. Nowhere else was the number favoring violence above 10 percent. 77 percent opposed the armed occupation of buildings. Intervention by Russian troops was supported by 19 percent of respondents in Luhansk and Donetsk. Russia military intervention was strongly opposed by 48 percent in Donetsk. Elsewhere in southeast Ukraine, at least 70 percent opposed the introduction of Russian troops.
[xii]International Republican Institute, 4-8.
[xiii]Paul Goble, “Window on Eurasia: Ukrainians now almost unanimous in supporting independent Ukraine,” 24 August 2014, Internet, http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2014/08/window-on-eurasia-ukrainians-now-almost.html (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xiv]Marjorie Connelly, “Ukrainians favor unity, not Russia, polls find,” The New York Times, 8 May 2014.
[xv]Sprehe, Kathleen Holzwart, “Ukraine Says ‘No’ to NATO,” Pew Global, 29 March 2010. Internet, http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/03/29/ukraine-says-no-to-nato/ (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xvi]“Maizhe polovina ukarintsiv khoche vstupu do NATO, sotsopituvannia (Less than half of Ukraininans want to join NATO),” Internet [English translation unavailable], http://tvi.ua/new/2014/07/22/mayzhepolovynaukrayincivkhochevtupudonato_socopytuvannya (date accessed: 8 October 2014).
[xvii]George Mirsky, “Kiev govorit po-Ukrainski (Kiev Speaks Ukrainian),” 2 November 2014, Internet [English translation unavailable], echo.msk.ru/ blog/georgy_mirsky/1429814-echo/ (date accessed: 24 November 2014). One good indicator of the validity of Echo Moskvy reporting is the government’s recent moves against the broadcaster.
[xviii]“Oprosy: Bol’shinstvo rossiian uvereny chto v Ukraine sushchestvyet ugroza dlia Russkogovoriashchikh zhitelei (Surveys: A majority of Russians are certain that there are threats to Russian-speaking residents of Ukraine),” Nezavisimaia gazeta 152, (24 July 2014): 3.
[xix]Sergei Goriashko, “Rossiianam ne nravitsia evropei’skii’ vybor Ukrainy (Russians do not like Ukraine’s choice of Europe),” Kommersant Daily 227, (10 December 2013): 8. A poll by the Public Opinion Foundation found 59 percent thought Ukraine would be better off aligned with Russia than with Europe. 36 percent thought Ukrainian ties to Europe would harm Russia, just 11 percent thought it would be beneficial, and 34 percent thought it would have no impact on Russia. This corresponds with the Levada Center August data: Russians would prefer that Ukraine be in the Eurasian Union, but are not willing to sacrifice a significant amount to make this happen.
[xx]Thomas Sherlock, “With low popular support for escalation, Putin faces a sharpening dilemma,” The National Interest, 21 August 2014, Internet, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/putins-public-opinion-challenge-11113 (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxi]ITAR-Tass, “Two thirds of Russians against sending troops to Ukraine - poll,” VTsIOM, 29 July 2014, Internet, http://en.itar-tass.com/russia/742703 (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxii]“Most Russians see Ukrainian turmoil as civil war - poll,” Russia Today, 26 August 2014, Internet, http://rt.com/politics/182860-russia-ukraine-civil-poll/ (date accessed: 3 November 2014).
[xxiii]Thomas Shurlock, “Putin’s Public Opinion Challenge,” Center for Geopolitical Analyses, 8 August 2014. Shurlock states that “with low popular support for escalation, Putin faces a sharpening dilemma.”
[xxiv]Levada Center, “Prisoedinenie Kryma k Rossii (Uniting Crimea with Russia),” 2 September 2014, Internet [English translation unavailable], http://www.levada.ru/print/02-092014/prisoedinenie-kryma-k-rossii (date accessed: 24 November 2014). Respondents happy about regaining Crimea decreased from 23 percent in March to 16 percent in September. The number saying it gives them pride in their country dropped from 37 percent to 30 percent. In March, just 19 percent were against paying to develop Crimea; in August the number was 28 percent. The share willing to suffer for Crimea declined from 28 percent to 17 percent.
[xxv]Interview by Balzer, St. Petersburg, June 2014. Reports in the Russian media have supported this account. Liudmila Bogatenkova was detained in October 2014 in part because she was advising families about their options when contract soldiers were forced to sign agreements to go to Ukraine. “A 73-year-old Russian woman investigating the deaths of Russian soldiers in Ukraine was thrown into an investigative isolation ward,” Noyvi region, Internet [English translation unavailable], http://nr2.com.ua/News/worldandrussia/73-letnyuyu-rossiyanku-zanimavshuyusya-rassledovaniem-gibeli-voennyh-RF-v-Ukraine-brosili-v-SIZO (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxvi]After the thirty-nine paratroopers were buried in Pskov in August, attempts to ascertain what happened to them produced unpleasant consequences for those asking the questions. Lev Shlosberg, a member of the Pskov regional legislature, sought an inquiry about the deaths and was subsequently attacked by three men who left him with injuries requiring hospitalization. More than twenty journalists in Pskov reported being attacked after they posed questions about the deaths. Members of a BBC news group in Astrakhan investigating reports of Russian soldiers’ deaths were attacked and their cameras smashed. A human rights advocate reported that at least a dozen bodies arrived in Orenburg from Ukraine early in the second half of September. Local military authorities were outraged when they learned the men had been officially discharged from the army following their deaths.
[xxvii]Catherine Fitzpatrick. “Russia This Week: Kremlin advisor Speaks at Yalta Conference Amid Separatists, European Far Right (25-31 August),” Interpretermag.com, August 30, 2014, Internet, http://www.interpretermag.com/russia-this-week/#4035 (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxviii]Anna Dolgov, “Defense Ministry dismisses reports of Russian paratroopers killed in Ukraine,” The Moscow Times, 30 September 2014, Internet, http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/defense-ministry-dismisses-reports-of-russian-paratroopers-killed-in-ukraine-as-rumors/508089.html (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxix]“Russian woman investigating deaths,” Noyvi Region, Internet [English translation unavailable], http://nr2.com.ua/News/worldandrussia/73- letnyuyu-rossiyanku-zanimavshuyusya-rassledovaniem-gibeli-voennyh-RF-v-Ukraine-brosili-v-SIZO-82527.html (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxx]“The group ‘Cargo 200 from Ukraine to Russia’ has been blocked on the Classmates site,” Noyvi Region, Internet [English translation unavailable], http://nr2.com.ua/News/politicsandsociety/Na-Odnoklassnikah-zablokirovali-gruppu-Gruz- 200-iz-Ukrainy-v-Rossiyu-81061.html (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxxi]The number of dead and missing Russian soldiers in the Donbass has reached 4,000,” Noyvi Region, Internet [English translation unavailable], http://nr2.com.ua/News/politicsandsociety/Na-Odnoklassnikah-zablokirovali-gruppu-Gruz- 200-iz-Ukrainy-v-Rossiyu-81061.html (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxxii]Echo Moskvy, “Rossiia, kotoruiu vybiraet bol’shinstvo–kakaia ona? (What kind of Russia would the majority choose?),” Interview with Lev Gudkov, 20 June 2014, Internet [English translation unavailable], http://echo.msk.ru/programs/year2014/1343750-echo/ (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxxiii]“Presidential Approval Ratings—George W. Bush,” Gallup, Internet, http://www.gallup.com/poll/116500/presidential-approval-ratings-george-bush.aspx (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxxiv]Putin’s 2014 jump in approval may resemble the effects from the war with Georgia in 2008. Mark Adomanis described Putin’s approval numbers as a “sugar high.” His approval rating was 88 percent in September 2008, down to 80 percent a year later, and at 68 percent in September 2010. Mark Adomanis, “Putin’s poll numbers are skyrocketing, but they aren’t going to last,” Center on Global Interests, 10 April 2014, Internet, http://www.globalinterests.org/2014/04/10/putins-poll-numbers-are-skyrocketing-but-they-arent-going-to-last/ (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxxv]Alexander Zemlianichenko, “Putin’s approval rating falls for first time this year,” The Moscow Times, 28 August 2014. Putin’s rating has spiked several times over his career. Putin’s lowest approval rating since he became President in June 2000 was either 50 percent or 61 percent in November 2013, depending on which polls are consulted. In early August 2014, Putin’s approval reached 87 percent, comparable to his ratings in 2008 during the war with Georgia, and in 2000 when battling Chechnya. “Putin’s approval rating soars to 87 percent, poll says,” The Moscow Times, 6 August 2014, Internet, http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/504691.html (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxxvi]Ivan Nechepurenko, “Crimea factor finite in Putin’s rating,” The Moscow Times, 13 August 2014, Internet, http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/505076.html (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxxvii]Information about communal services price hikes derived from interviews in Moscow and St. Petersburg, June 2014. On the pension fund see Anastasiia Bashkatova, “Pensionnye nakopleniia grazhdan potracheny na Krym i bor’bu s krizisom (The Citizens’ Pension Fund has been spent on Crimea and the struggle with the crisis), Internet [English translation unavailable], g.ru/economics/2014-06-26/1_pensii.html (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xxxviii]Frozen conflicts refer to areas of the former Soviet Union where ongoing low-level violence has become the norm, with no political settlement in view. Russia has played a major role in preserving these regions as unstable pseudo-states, using them as leverage against former Soviet republics. Nagorno- Karabakh (leverage against Azerbaijan and influence with Armenia), South Ossetia and Abkhazia (stripped from Georgia), and Trans-Dniester (part of Moldova) have been the four most-cited cases. Eastern Ukraine might become the fifth. For a recent discussion of
Ukraine in this context see Roman Olearchyk, “Frozen conflict emerges from heat of war,” The Financial Times, 2 October 2014.
[xxxix]The Internet was supposed to be the great exception to state control of information. In 1999,
Putin endorsed the views of economic and social groups opposed to building a “Great Firewall” in Russia. Since returning to the presidency, Putin has increasingly sought to emulate China’s effort to control cyberspace.
[xl]The announced plan to resume broadcasts for thirty minutes each day is hardly a significant alternative.
[xli]President Putin has consistently put a brave face on the economic impact of the Ukraine invasion. His economic advisers have been less sanguine. Andrew Kramer, “Putin Trumpets Economic Strength, but Advisers Seem Less Certain,” The New York Times, 3 October 2014. For recent scholarly analysis see Natal’ia Zubarevich, “Prostranstvo Rossii posle Kryma i na fone krizisa (The Russian Space after Crimea and against the background of the crisis),” Pro et Contra 18, (May-August 2014): 118-128. Also Sergei Aleksashenko, “Ekonomika Rossii k nachalu epokhi ‘posle Putina’ (The Russian Economy at the Beginning of the Post-Putin Epoch),” Pro et Contra 18, (May-August 2014): 104-117. Also Nikolai Petrov, “Rossiia v 2014-m: skatyvanie v voronku (Russia in 2014: Sliding Down the Funnel),” Pro et Contra 18, (May-August 2014): 57-86.
[xlii]Paul Goble, “Crimea’s Consequences for Russia’s Non-Russians—A Net Assessment of Long-Term Nationalities Trends Within the Russian Federation Since the Start of 2014,” Eurasia Daily Monitor 11, no. 182, (15 October 2014). Also Paul Goble, “Crimea’s Consequences for Russia’s Non-Russians—A Net Assessment of Long-Term Nationalities Trends Within the Russian Federation Since the Start of 2014, Eurasia Daily Monitor 11.182 (15 October 2014), Internet, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?txttnews[ttnews]=42958&cHash=86f5ac7b58a3b23c3a%2065f4832357bde6#.VQpJiGTF_9t (date accessed: 24 November 2014). For excellent coverage of the economic and political impact of the Ukraine invasion on Russian regions, see Paul Goble’s blog Window on Eurasia, Internet, http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xliii]For a typical Putin comment, see “Russia could lose over 100 bln rubles from EU-Ukraine association - Putin,” INTERFAX, 26 August 2014. For other calculations indicating that the results for the Russian economy would be neutral or positive, see the sources in note 2.
[xliv]Outside of the Middle East, Russia has the largest number of Muslim citizens fighting in ISIS groups in Syria and Iraq. Ceylan Yeginsu, “ISIS Draws Steady Stream of Recruits from Turkey,” The New York Times, 15 September, 2014: 1. Also Vladislav Mal’tsev, “Nezametnaia islamskaia revoliutsiia (The Unnoticed Islamic Revolution),” Nezavisimaia gazeta, 6 November 2014, Internet, [English translation unavailable], http://www.ng.ru/columnist/2014%2011%2006/2_dagestan.html (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xlv]During a three-week trip to Russia in June, many acquaintances repeated this view. There is a high degree of irony in the incessant labeling of Kiev’s leaders as “fascists.” The most extreme political group garnered just 1.6 percent of the vote in the November Ukrainian election. Zhirinovskii’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Zyuganov’s Communists, and Rogozin’s Rodina Party all have polled much higher numbers, and all three hold leadership positions in Putin’s government.
[xlvi]Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Bobik, “The Empire Strikes Back: War without war and occupation without occupation in the Russian sphere of Influence,” American Ethnologist 41.3(2014): 405-413. Also Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012). The frozen conflict in South Ossetia obliterated the tax base. The regime financed operations by printing some $20 billion in counterfeit $100 bills. On Donetsk and Luhansk, see Aleksey Matsuka, “Writing the truth in the People’s Republic of Donetsk,” OpenDemocracy, 18 July 2014, Internet, www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/aleksey-matsuka/writing-truth-in-people%E2%80%99s-republic-of-donetsk (date accessed: 24 November 2014). Also Tetyana Zarovnaya, “Terrorists are already kidnapping people just for the sake of ransom, but militia is inactive,” 28 May 2014, Internet, http://uacrisis.org/activistsof-donetsk-euromaidan/ (date accessed: 24 November 2014). Also Pavel Knyagin, “Kidnapped Russian Journalist Pavel Kanygin on his own abduction: ‘This is not a ransom, this is your contribution to our war,’” 26 May 2014, Internet, http://maidantranslations.com/2014/05/26/kidnapped-russian-journalistpavel-kanygin-on-his-own-abduction-this-is-not-aransom-this-is-your-contribution-to-our-war/ (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xlvii]Sergei Baburin, Krym naveki s Rossiei: istoriko-pravovoe obosnovanie vossoedineniia respubliki Krym i goroda Sevastopol’s Rossiiskoi Federatsei (Crimea With Russia Forever: The Historical-Legal Basis for Uniting the Crimean Republic and City of Sevastopol with the Russian Federation), (Moscow: knizhnyi mir, 2014). Also Ivan Mironov, Aliaska predannaia i prodannaia: istoriia dvortsovogo zagovora (Alaska betrayed and sold: The History of a Palace Conspiracy), (Moscow: Knizhnyi mir, 2014).
[xlviii]Steven Pifer and Strobe Talbott, “Time to give Ukraine defensive weapons,” Kyiv Post, 18 September 2014, Internet, http://www.kyivpost.com/opinion/op-ed/steven-pifer-and-strobe-talbott-time-to-give-ukraine-defensive-weapons-365119.html (date accessed: 24 November 2014).
[xlix]Gazeta.ru Commentary, “Odin-za vse: Chem opasna personifikatsiia vlasti (One-for Everything: The Danger in the Personification of Power),” Internet [English translation unavailable], http://www.gazeta.ru/comments/2014/11/07e6292885.shtml (date accessed: 24 November 2014). On the damage inflicted by Putin and his cronies see Dawisha, Putin’s Kleptocracy, Chapter 7. Also Jo Becker and Steven Lee Myers, “Putin’s Friend Profits in Purge of Schoolbooks,” The New York Times, 2 November 2014. Also Harley Balzer, “Authoritarianism and Modernization in Russia: Is Russia Ka-Putin?” Politics and Economics in Putin’s Russia (Carlisle: U.S. Army War College, December 2013): 125-174. Putin has revised his view of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the agreement to give the USSR the Baltics and divide Poland with Hitler. Neil MacFarquhar, “Russia: Putin Defends Soivet-Nazi Pact,” The New York Times, 7 November 2014.
[l]For a good recent survey of these issues and the difficulties involved, see Angela Stent, The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-first Century (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014.) The forthcoming paperback edition is being revised to include a discussion of Ukraine.
[li]Echo Moskvy, Interview with Lev Gudkov, note 26.