The United States, many of its allies, and even some multinational corporations have punished Russia with crushing economic sanctions in response to its invasion of Russia, with a clear if aspirational goal of convincing suffering Russian citizens to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin for their troubles and rise up against him.
That plan may well have backfired, though, as there is evidence to suggest that rather than blame and rise up against Putin, a majority of Russians have instead blamed the West and rallied around their internationally reviled and demonized leader, Fox News reported.
Such was the assessment of a Russian-born American citizen named Vadim Ismakaev, who has kept in touch with family and friends who still reside in Russia and are currently enduring the financially crushing punishment doled out on them due to the actions of their president and his administration.
Anti-Putin sanctions have backfired among Russian people
“The rhetoric from the Russian people, especially from the ones who are feeling the full effects of the sanctions and their life is taking a huge downturn, they’re becoming more and more pro-War and pro-Putin,” Ismakaev told Fox News. “Because for them the message is that the West has always tried to destroy Russia and that’s what they are trying to do here now. We’re just trying to save our country.”
A big part of the problem is that both the West and Russia have cut off most Russians from outside information, be it mainstream media or social media, leaving Russians with only the news they receive from state-run Russian media or foreign sources that are aligned with Russia’s interests.
“From the very beginning it was ‘Russia against the world’ and ‘Russia vs. the evil West’ and it’s just a very bad situation that I don’t see getting any better,” Ismakaev continued. “If anything, over the past week, it actually got worse from what people are posting and how extreme those messages are starting to get.”
“The type of attitude from many people is like, we don’t care about your sanctions, you give us more sanctions we’re just going to laugh at it,” he said. “It’s actually starting to help [Putin’s] narrative because for a lot of people they do not know the reasons for those sanctions.”
“That narrative has people like, ok, therefore we are not afraid of the sanctions and we will live poorly and we will live like crap, we don’t care, at least we are Russians and we are proud,” Ismakaev added.
Polling supports anecdotal evidence
The National Interest reported this week that, according to polling from Russia’s Levada Center — so take it with a whole shaker of salt — President Putin’s approval rating among the Russian people has actually increased in recent months, going from 69 percent in January to 71 percent in February, with a disapproval rating of just 27 percent.
To be sure, that particular polling was largely conducted prior to the start of the actual invasion and merely gauged opinions during the increasingly tense standoff between Russian troops at the Ukraine border and Western nations vowing sanctions and other consequences for any hostile attack — and it must be noted that many Russians likely feel too intimidated to freely express their true thoughts on the matter.
That said, another poll by the Levada Center in early March asked Russian respondents about the ongoing “special military operation” in Ukraine and found that 58 percent approved of the invasion compared to 23 percent who disapproved.
Meanwhile, The Hill reported that back here in America, according to Gallup, the already low opinion of most Americans toward Putin and Russia has declined even further in recent months, as now only 15 percent of Americans view Russia favorably while 85 percent view that nation and its leader unfavorably.