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CIRCLE THE RUSSIAN WAGONS – BELIEF IN PATRIOTISM, SACRIFICE, AND PUTIN RISES IN REACTION TO US, EU SANCTIONS, MEDIA WAR

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The war against Russia outside Russia is being lost inside Russia. If the Allied strategic bombing campaign against Germany’s cities failed seventy years ago, and since then every US attempt to topple Middle Eastern and South American regimes, what reason or reward do the bow-and-arrow brigade have for thinking otherwise?

The latest Russian opinion polls reveal that President Vladimir Putin enjoys a greater reserve of domestic political support than his western attackers, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron, anticipated for Putin — or enjoy for themselves. In the war of attrition Russians believe to have been imposed on them, Putin has more time to spare than Obama or Cameron – and not less than Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The independent Moscow pollster Levada Centre is reporting that Russian consumer sentiment is responding negatively to the impact of sanctions and economic weakness, but political sentiment has disengaged, and is moving in the opposite direction.

Over the past two months, according to the latest Levada poll [1] taken between November 14 and 17, there was a modest increase in public concern at the devaluation of the rouble, but much less than might have been predicted. In February, 58% of Russians polled said they were concerned by the foreign exchange rate for the rouble; last week the proportion had risen to 63%. The difference is fractionally above the margin for statistical error. Asked if they have savings to cushion the impact of rising prices, 61% of Russians say no, 30% say yes. Still, this means there are now 10% more reporting a savings cushion than was measured at the onset of the last recession, in November 2008. On the economic front Russians are showing preparedness.

According to separate polling [2] by Levada, Russians approving Putin’s performance have risen to an all-time high of 88%.

Do you generally approve or disapprove the activities of Vladimir Putin as president of Russia?

P_A_R

The mobilization effect can be charted like this, revealing a gap between those approving and those disapproving which has never been so wide:

Approval_rating

Interpretation of the poll results over the past six months by Levada Centre analyst Alexei Grazhdankin suggests that Russian political sentiment was more skeptical of Putin’s performance in managing the conflict in eastern Ukraine than it has become, after the US demonstrated its target is the overthrow of the Russian leadership and of Putin himself. Western media attacks on Putin, the US targeting of Putin’s “cronies”, and attempts to isolate or humiliate Putin at international meetings like the G20 summit are all backfiring, according to the pollster. Grazhdankin is predicting an even higher approval rating for the president when the November results come in.

Another survey of national sentiment was conducted by Levada in the last days of October. The nationwide sample totaled 1,630 in this poll, with a margin of error of 3.4%. Here are the latest responses compared to earlier periods back to 1996:

Are you proud of living in Russia?

Q1

Do you feel freedom in society?

Q2

Are you proud of the current condition of Russia?

Q3

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the statement: “For me to be a citizen of Russia is better than for any other country”?

Q4

To what do you agree or disagree with the statement: “Generally speaking, Russia is better than most other countries”?

Q5

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the statement: “People should maintain their country, even if the country is not right”?

Q6

For Levada Grazhdankin is not expecting a reversal of the mobilization effect, or war fatigue, in the short run. “The Stalin era lasted thirty years. The current [US] course will end only if there is a change of government. Everyone believes this is the scenario now. We do not promise an easy life, digging trenches for the long haul. The country is preparing for the long winter…”

A new poll by the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM), also Moscow-based, reveals a curious development in Russian thinking about the current situation. Asked for their opinions of the current “economic situation”, “political situation”, and “the direction of country”, the trend lines for the large majority of respondents hit their peak in the summer. They then start downward for both the “economic” and “political” assessments. But for the country’s direction as a whole the trend line continues to move upward in the positive direction.

Index
Source: http://wciom.ru/public-mood0/ [3]

Is this more evidence of the circle-the-wagon effect – growing sentiment in support of the country at the same time as everyone acknowledges that concrete conditions are worsening? Do Russians blame the deterioration of their economic condition on the US, and support Putin even more demonstratively?

Olga Kamenchuk, director for international and public affairs at VTsIOM, says it is too soon to say so for certain. “People start to recognize problems, including economic ones, later than they actually start to occur. Now in November we have records of concern about the currency declines. But in the early autumn, when the ruble has started its fall, we observed no such anxiety. Changes in the economy were not visible for the public during the summer. The main factor explaining the high level of indicators of social sentiment is the time lag.”

“In addition, an important role is played by the active foreign policy and the high approval ratings of the president in this period.”

How long a time lag can be expected before economic adversity begins to impact on the president’s rating? Russian banking sources believe that Putin can count on another twelve months.

Who wins in a war of attrition between the US and Russia? According to Kremlin sources, that depends on who is left standing in the US – Henry Kissinger, 91, seen below meeting the Polish war party spokesman, Radoslaw Sikorski, is not a US advocate of either military escalation or economic attrition. If he survives himself, his views may be picked up by a Republican Party candidate in the 2016 election. Zbigniew Brzezinski, 86, backs confrontation, military escalation, and proxy war. His side is the Democratic Party’s.

S_K_B

For the time being, the public version of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) assessment is far from supportive of the idea that Putin can be toppled, either in the short or long run. CIA enthusiasm for putsches and regime change is decidedly cool; for a review, click [4].

At the end of August, Senator Dianne Feinstein, outgoing chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was expressing the CIA’s negative assessment of the prospects for a war of attrition [5].

“I think there ought to be direct discussions with Vladimir Putin. I think he is the singular figure in Russia. The Crimea is gone. I think there ought to be steps taken to send people, to talk with him, to have our Secretary of State talk with him personally. I think this is deeply personal with him. I really do. And he’s enjoying intensely high favourability in his country. People say, ‘Well, just wait till the sanctions bite and the economy slips.’ I don’t think so. I think if Russians follow him, and up to date, they are following him, the Russians are very brave and very long-suffering. And they will tough out any economic difficulty.”