Will he or won’t he? Signs across the Ukrainian-Russian border point to the fact that Vladimir Putin is keeping his options wide open when it comes to annexing more Ukrainian territory. The Wall Street Journal:
Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, U.S. officials said.
On the one hand Putin has to know that, even if there is no threat of Western military pushback or serious resistance from Ukraine’s comparatively weak armed forces, actually ruling over areas like Kharkiv would be nowhere near as easy as ruling over Crimea, where people who identify as Russians form a sizable majority.On the other hand, invasion may prove to be a winner for Putin domestically. As the (still supposedly independent) Levada Center reported this week, polls show that Russians in general approve of what happened in Crimea and would support further incursions and annexation of areas of Ukraine. Some data points:
If another region of Ukraine was to vote in a referendum to exit the Ukraine and join the Russian Federation, should Russia bring this region into into its union or not?Definitely bring it into the union – 38%
Probably bring it into the union – 29%
Probably refrain from doing so – 15%
Definitely refrain from doing so – 4%
Hard to say – 15%Which of the following opinions about Russian adoption of territories of the former USSR would you agree with:Russia has the right to do so in order to protect its own people – 58%
Russia doesn’t have the right to do so, but in the case of Crimea, Russia behaved decently and lawfully, and in accordance with international law – 28%
Russia has no right to do so, and Russia’s actions can only be considered by the international community as annexation of foreign territory and intervention against a sovereign state – 4%
Difficult to answer – 10%
If these survey results are trustworthy, Western policymakers shouldn’t get too excited about Putin’s overreaching hurting him at home. These numbers certainly put earlier homegrown protests against the Crimea adventure in perspective. It’s hard to say how Russian people “really” see things, given the level of control Putin’s regime has over the country’s media. But it certainly seems that the West doesn’t just have a Putin problem on its hands; it has a much bigger Russia problem.