Monday, July 28, 2014

Can Putin be Moved?

The terrible tragedy of MH17, and Russia’s likely involvement, has created a moment where America and Western Europe, if they choose, have new leverage to pressure President Putin and the Russian governing elite.

Putin has overwhelming support at home due to Russian pride from the Odessa annexation, reinforced by insecurity with encirclement and a generalized hostility to the West. It is all highly managed by a renewed propaganda operation reminiscent of the old Soviet Union, but far more sophisticated.

However, even prior to the MH17 crises, Putin and Russian had little public support in Western and U.S. public opinion, and with only a few exceptions, the rest of the world had a negative view of Russia.

Majorities or pluralities of national populations are recorded by Pew Research as having an unfavorable view of Russia and of Putin doing the “right thing regarding world affairs” (March/June 2014, 48,643 respondents in 44 countries). The survey was conducted prior to MH17, but post the annexation of Crimea, and among most countries, worldwide opinion of Russia and Putin wasn’t positive before the Crimea, it simply got worse, especially in the U.S. and Europe.

Out of the 44 countries in the Pew study, negative views increased in 36 from 2013 and 2014.
Negative views increased in the U.S. and Europe since 2013 Although German elites are reluctant participants in sanctions, their citizens have one of the most negative views toward Russia.
In Ukraine, the negative opinion (60%) is up from 11 percent negative in 2011, the last time Pew asked the question.
There are a handful of countries where majorities of the public have favorable views of Russia and belief Putin is doing the right thing.
The shooting down of MH17 over the Ukraine’s unstable region will add consternation with Russia and Putin in most of the world.

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