The World Today for February 28, 2022
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Meanwhile, On the Home Front
Elizaveta Peskova, the daughter of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, recently posted a “No to war!” message on Instagram. As the Independent explained, 24-year-old Peskova was not the only child of a powerful Russian figure who has spoken out against the war.
“The biggest and most successful lie of Kremlin’s propaganda is that most Russians stand with Putin,” wrote Sofia Abramovich, 26, the daughter of Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, on social media.
Oligarchs’ daughters don’t necessarily reflect the pulse of the nation. But they illustrate how many Russians are opposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine.
A majority of Russians might not even support the war. Half of the Russians surveyed in a CNN poll said they believed Russia had the right to use force to prevent the former Soviet republic of Ukraine from joining NATO. Twenty-five percent didn’t support the use of force. Another 25 percent were undecided.
A journalist for the Toronto Star likened the tense mood on the streets of Moscow to the days of the Soviet Union when the government would brook no show of dissent despite percolating frustration with the country’s leadership. But those days are long gone. People are making their voices of opposition heard.
The police recently arrested thousands of protesters who took to the streets to call for an end to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. “I thought that we would never see a war like this in the 21st century,” protester Alexander Belov told the Guardian at an anti-war rally in Moscow. “It turns out we live in the Middle Ages.”
Despite those sentiments, the “rally around the flag” effect has sent Putin’s popularity soaring. Some Russians agree with Putin’s averred reasons for the war – the prevention of NATO pressuring or launching attacks against Russia from Ukraine, which has been taken over by “neo-Nazis,” the New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, as Westerners watch scenes of aggression against Ukraine, Russians are tuning into a completely different show, says Politico EU.
But analysts writing in a Washington Post op-ed also noted that Putin depends on scapegoating foreign (and domestic) enemies in order to retain his autocratic grip on power. That reasoning could explain why 69 percent of Russians now support their president, an eight percent increase since August. Less than 30 percent now disapprove of his job performance.
But such bumps in support don’t often last, argued Arik Burakovsky, a Russian expert at Tufts University, in the Conversation. As Ukrainian forces kill Russian troops and body bags return home, and as Western-imposed sanctions intending to choke Russia’s fortified but still-vulnerable economy, Russian public sentiment could quickly shift.
The Carnegie Center in Moscow, for example, warned that Russians are looking at a decade of “unpaid bills and economic stagnation.” Many might recall similar privations in the latter stages of the Soviet Union and wonder if Putin, a former KGB officer who is seeking to revive a glorified past, has their best interests in mind.
Acclaimed Russian writer, Vladimir Sorokin, says no, he doesn’t, just like all leaders before him going back to Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century who sat atop the “pyramid of power.” The Putin the world now sees, “is a monster – crazed in its desires and ruthless in its decisions (who) had grown gradually, gaining strength from year to year, marinating in its own absolute authority.” But Putin, he adds, sits on a “crumbling pyramid of power.”
On the Ukrainian home front, meanwhile, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has mobilized nearly the entire country to fight. Ukrainians are singing their national anthem in subways as they sit out Russian bombings, picking up guns at pop-up distribution centers and berating Russian soldiers on the street, all while bombing tanks, killing Russian soldiers and celebrating holding off Russian advances for another day. They are enduring a nation-building experience – paid in blood – that is likely to produce a more independent Ukraine with a greater sense of itself instead of the opposite.
Putin might be birthing a country only to destroy it while losing his own in the process.
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