Russian imperialism: Only a bare majority of Russians wants Russia to stay within its current borders

Russian invasion in Ukraine

Russian invasion in Ukraine (Photo: social networks) 

2015/03/24 • Analysis & Opinion, Russia

Only 57 percent of Russians say that their country should be satisfied with and continue to live within its current borders, while nearly a quarter – 23 percent – say that Moscow should use all means, including military force, to bring under its control the former Soviet republics, although 65 percent disagreed, according to a new Levada Center poll.

At the same time, the new survey found, only one Russian in ten – 10 percent – says that Russia does not have the right to annex what are now foreign territories to its own and that it must act according to international law governing any such border changes.

Eight percent said they supported Russia keeping its current borders but incorporating Belarus, another eight percent said they backed Russia’s expansion to include all the former USSR, “except the Baltics,” and yet another eight percent said that Moscow should include the Baltic countries as well.

Smaller shares of the Russian population favored lesser expansions in the borders of their country: Four percent wanted to join Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan to Russia, three percent only Belarus and Ukraine, and one percent only Ukraine. According to the pollsters, “10 percent of the respondents found it difficult to answer this question.”

With regard to the justification for such territorial expansion, nearly half of all Russians – 47 percent – said that Moscow does not have the right to invoke the mistreatment of ethnic Russians in these countries. But at the same time, 34 percent said Russia was right to “defend its own” by annexing Crimea.

At least three things about this poll are disturbing:

  • First, 24 years after the disintegration of the USSR, large numbers of Russians have not accepted that as final and thus form a major base of support for Vladimir Putin’s revisionist and revanchist foreign policy as now in the case of Ukraine.
  • Second, the poll suggests, by its granularity in terms of what borders Russians would like to see, that this is not a superficial attitude but one that among significant portions of the Russian population is a matter of almost existential concern, a reality that underscores that these attitudes are going to be a source of problems for the Eurasian region and beyond for a long time to come.
  • And third – and this is perhaps the most worrisome thing of all – many in the West seem to be taking such attitudes in stride, as somehow natural given what Russians have gone through. Just how outrageous that is becomes obvious if one imagines how the international community would react if any other country on the face of the earth had a population with similar views.

No one would tolerate such attitudes in another country, and everyone would mobilize to oppose them and it. Failure to do so in the case of Russia will not create conditions under which these views will somehow “go away with time,” as some commentators suggest. Instead, that failure will only encourage those who think that Russia has the right to do what no one else does.

That in turn will encourage the worst elements in the Kremlin, including in the first instance Vladimir Putin, to continue to violate the international rules of the game, and reinforce such attitudes and the vicious authoritarianism they support within Russia and where Russian forces may go.

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Michel Cloarec

    If one ask the russian scumbags dealing with prostitution, trafficking, drogs, vapensmuggling,hacking, scammers and all other scumbag businesses. They will want Imperialism, they get access to european market. So word Imperialism should translate to CAMORRA
    All form of scum activities in Europe are related to russia.

  • puttypants

    Please tell me what Russians have gone thru. That’s such a joke that needs to be corrected. They have always brought misery upon themselves and wanted to spread it the surrounding countries with their tsars and slavery with their communism and slavery and once again they want to control other countries with their neo-totalitarian government. They are all insane and not very bright people who need to live in a totalitarian country so let them and leave the rest of the world alone. No one wants your Putin.

  • Charles J. Kollman

    It seems they have a low mentality of life and the world.

  • Jens A

    First, the mistreat of the Russians in Ukraine before the war is pure PP = Putler Propaganda. Second, it is after all, 57% of the Russians that want to be peaceful people. Third, 23% of a whole population that wants to act as terrorists, is a disturbing high number!

  • Czech Friend

    Like a rabid beast, Russia must be subjugated, punished and brought to its knees and KEPT THERE for Europe to live in peace in prosperity.

    No more German-Franco suicidal pacts with the devil. It is time to show Ivans who is the boss on the continent!