Staunton, October 29 – Even those who say they support Vladimir Putin no longer believe claims by the Russian government like the one that a Russian soldier supposedly committed suicide in Syria rather than dying in combat, thus restoring the Soviet “syndrome” where people think one thing but say another, according to Liliya Shevtsova.
But in many ways, the Russian political analyst suggests, the situation is now “more hopeless” because of “the complete demoralization and fears” of the population about what their government is doing (apostrophe.com.ua/article/world/2015-10-28/kreml-ischet-chem-zamenit-nenavist-k-ukraintsam/2492).
How much of an impact the deaths of Russian servicemen in Syria will have depends on their number, “the ability of the authorities to hide them, and the overall social tone in society,” she says. “But that society does not want to sacrifice anything is obvious” and that is one of the reasons the Kremlin “is seeking a way out of the war with Ukraine.”
“It is still difficult to say how tied down Putin is in Syria,” she says; but it is clear that society already recognizes that it will have to pay a terrible price in lives and treasure for his actions. And it is also clear that “the Syrian narcotic … is less effective than the narcotic of hatred for Ukrainians” proved to be.
Consequently, Shevtsova suggests, “the Kremlin will be forced to offer Russia some sort of evidence of a victory in Syria and soon – or to find a new occasion for distracting attention from the new drama,” possibly with an attack elsewhere as Putin has done in the past.
A new Levada Center poll confirms Shevtsova’s arguments. It shows that two-thirds of Russians now consider that the military operation in Syria will bring Russia more harm than good in the form of combat losses and the spending of funds that could be better used for domestic needs (rbc.ru/politics/29/10/2015/5630c3179a79470038fbb0ef).
But the poll also found, as Shevtsova’s analysis predicts, that when asked about whether the country is on the right track despite that, a sizeable majority say yes, thus showing the disconnect between their actual assessments of the situation and their willingness to link their statements about Putin to it.