2015 April 18 Saturday
Opinion Polls Drive Russian Policy Abroad Which (Only) West Hates

Vladimir Putin's popularity had shrunk to 65% and so the Crimea invasion was necessary to drive it back up to 86%.

While Putinís Russia is not a democracy, its leadership remains obsessed with feedback. Policies are shaped by frequent opinion polls and focus-group surveys. This helps explain some of the seemingly reckless and self-defeating moves made by the Kremlin, most of which miraculously result in high approval ratings and greater consolidation behind the regime.

In the modern Western liberal telling democracy is meant to cause governments to carry out the will of the people. What that's what Putin is doing, but with constant polling rather than occasional mass votes. This seems like a more modern form of democracy. Yet the West objects. Russian popular opinion drives policies by Russia that bring on Western sanctions, and only Western sanctions.

As the West becomes demographically much less Western will the elites in 30 or 40 years still be able to drive the sort of reaction that the West has had to Russia in (formerly) Ukrainian territory?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2015 April 18 12:59 PM 

akarlin said at April 18, 2015 1:50 PM:

I think the issue is not so much internal demographic trends in the West - though I don't know if immigrants/ethnic minorities are any better disposed to Russia than the natives, for that matter anyway - as its shrinking proportion of the global economic pie.

The countries now sanctioning Russia still make up 60% of global GDP in nominal terms. 30-40 years ago, this was more like 80%. In 30-40 years time, it will be 30%, and hence be much less of an issue.

Wolf-Dog said at April 18, 2015 7:52 PM:

Indeed, Russia has many friends not only in the East, but it appears that it has just added Greece to its sphere of influence by loaning $5 billion (approximately 5 billion euros), in exchange for using the Greek territory to extend its new gas pipeline to central Europe, which will circumvent Ukraine. The South Stream gas pipeline construction was temporarily blocked by Europe in Bulgaria, but Greece is becoming the new ally of Russia. Here is a detailed article with the map:


In addition to adding Greece to its sphere of influence as a critical base in Europe, Russia also preserved its energy dominance in Europe.

Stephen said at April 18, 2015 10:10 PM:

Wolf-Dog, it'll be interesting to observe the US's response to Greece daring to treat with Russia. It's very much a strategic problem and the US can't ignore it. Will the US decide to undermine Greece's democracy (time for a junta perhaps?), or will take another approach and relieve pressure on Greece by telling the bankers to give up on the fun their having?

kmag said at April 19, 2015 12:54 AM:

Anatoly, can you tell us why you believe the West's proportion of global GDP will drop down to 30% in 30-40 years?

kmag said at April 19, 2015 12:55 AM:

Anatoly, can you tell us why you think the proportion of global GDP made by the west will fall to 30% in 30-40 years?

Wolf-Dog said at April 19, 2015 2:32 AM:

I suspect that Anatoly was predicting that China's higher growth will cause the western GDP to fall to 30 % globally.

Due to the lack of ambitious government policy the western economies are not growing as fast, but this can change if robots take over, and if a higher percentage of the GDP is invested in R & D. It is the lack of innovation that slows down economies, and China does not seem to hate science. As we speak, the total capacity of the Chinese high speed trains is about to surpass that of the air travel in the US. Shame on us.


Jaakko Raipala said at April 19, 2015 5:01 PM:

And how many countries could Russia get to sanction the West? What's happening is that both the West and Russia are stuck in a Cold War script where they assume that their power struggle in some corner of the world automatically has global significance but without the polarization into communism and anti-communism most of the world can't see the difference between the West and Russia anymore. If you're looking at this from Saudi Arabia, are you really going to think that Russia and the West represent entirely different values? Compared to Saudis we and Russians are basically the same.

If some Latin American countries had a war and they blasted tons of propaganda at us about what values the countries supposedly represent most people here would just laugh at it since we can't tell the difference between the states anyway and we have no reason to care who's the biggest power in Latin America. Communism vs anti-communism was an aberration that immediately made all history global. Now we are back to most of the world not mattering to most of the world.

People act out of self-interest so immigrants here next to Russia react to Russia. I know a Turk who is moving out and taking his family to a safer country. Most immigrants seem to think we're crazy to not have joined NATO when we had the chance after the Soviet collapse which is where their lack of connection to our history shows (ie they don't understand why we lack trust in the West and why many of us thought in the 1990s that Russia might return to some of its traditional good sides). Immigration by people without our history is going to make Finland more pro-NATO without any doubt. Fuck, we did a poll and the Russian minority in Estonia is significantly more pro-NATO than Finns, even Russian immigration will probably make us more pro-NATO.

The EU and America are not reacting out of "hatred". That is moronic propaganda. Plenty of Russia-hatred here (and not a lot of these new pro-Russians given how obvious it is from close range that the new conservative Russia is another rotten lie) but we tried to talk our way out of sanctions only to be told by the EU that we don't get to skip them. Picking your allies and partners based on hatred or lack of it is a luxury that only extremely geographically privileged (and therefore dumb) people can dream of. In Eastern Europe it's standard that whoever you're allied with has tried to pull a bit of genocide on you in the (often recent) past.

The EU eastern policy was designed by Sweden and Poland which is a bit like hiring China and Russia to do your policy on America. Swedes and Poles are just pushing for their great power dreams once again. Unfortunately the rest of the EU doesn't know northern history and has bought Poland's "forever innocent victim" propaganda and Sweden's "humanitarian superpower" propaganda (real world: Sweden is one of the most extreme oligarchies in the world and the Swedish elite is so confident of staying in power that they're willing to turn Swedes into a minority in Sweden to increase international weight). Europe isn't even motivated by communism traumas now, we've gone back to countries trying to get even for centuries old losses, and it's not surprising that the rest of the world doesn't share the obsession with the Battle of Poltava.

Stephen said at April 19, 2015 6:42 PM:

Jaakko, really interesting read from start to Finnish. Sorry, couldn't help the play on words.

Or are you from another Baltic state?

Seth W. said at April 20, 2015 3:09 PM:

"The West"? That's so mid-20th century. Even you mention that West becomes demographically much less Western, so it is important to note that Latin America -and that's as West as you can get-,doesn't hold "The West's" views.

What you refer to as "The West" is really only the United States and the English regimes; so we have to stop saying "The West" as if really meant something, in order to avoid hegemonic narrative.

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