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Russian Aggression Costs Its Support in Ukraine and Eastern Europe

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Floyd Ciruli

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The Wall Street Journal reported January 31 on Kharkiv, a city in northeastern Ukraine that in 2014 was very pro-Russian in sentiment before the Russian seizure of Crimea and creation of the Donbas breakaway, but has now shifted against Russia toward Ukrainian sovereignty and identity. It reflects seven years of Russian and separatist control of far eastern Ukraine that has terrorized and impoverished the local population and caused many of them to abandon the area.

Kharkiv’s shift parallels changed attitudes toward Russia in Ukraine in general. Ukrainians have held very positive feelings toward Russia, but like Kharkiv, support collapsed after the invasion of Crimea and the fighting in Donbas. An analysis in 538 reports that it shifted from 80 percent favorability to only 42 percent and unfavorability nearly tripled from 15 percent to 41 percent. Ukrainians do not want to be a part of Russia in spite of Vladimir Putin’s view that there is no such thing as a Ukrainian nation.

Opinion in Ukraine of Russia and NATO

Putin’s use of Ukraine to further his anti-NATO strategy has alienated the population and made NATO more, not less attractive. Support for joining NATO climbed from 30 percent before the Crimea seizure to 56 percent today. Opposition to joining, which was greater than support (30% favor, 47% oppose), is now in favor 56 percent to 33 percent.

Joining NATO is no doubt off the table due to the power relationship in the region today, but Russia has likely lost a generation of opinion by his denial of Ukraine identity and use of them as a pawn in his effort to roll back NATO.

Read the Crossley Forum:

Europe Tries to Head Off War, But Appeasement is Out

Russia’s Anti-NATO Behavior Backfires