In the Thick of It

A blog on the U.S.-Russia relationship

Russians Largely Blame US, NATO Allies for Escalation of Tensions Near Ukraine

April 29, 2021
RM Staff

Almost half of Russians blame the U.S. and its NATO allies for the escalation of tensions in eastern Ukraine, according to the results of a poll released April 29 by Russia’s leading independent pollster, the Levada Center. Forty-eight percent of respondents hold that view.

Those who believe the U.S. and NATO are to blame for the escalation dominate all age groups among the poll’s respondents. They account for 36 percent of respondents 18-24 years old, 40 percent among respondents 25-39 years old, 50 percent of respondents 40-54 years old and 57 percent of respondents 55 years old and older.

Among those who get their news from TV or the radio, 57 percent and 52 percent, respectively, blame the U.S. and other NATO countries. In contrast, only 26 percent of those who rely on Telegram channels for news hold that view. Such a disparity should come as no surprise, given that all national TV channels and many of Russia’s radio stations are controlled by entities either owned by the state or loyal to the Kremlin, which has been striving to portray Ukrainian authorities as controlled by the West.

Importantly, only 2 percent of Russians believe the situation in eastern Ukraine will inevitably escalate into a war, while 16 percent are confident that it will not. That common wisdom reflects the change in the situation on the ground, where Russian top brass has ordered the withdrawal of many of the units whose deployment to areas adjacent to Ukraine in March and April fueled concerns among some experts that a war could be imminent (although some of these units have left equipment in those areas before returning to their permanent bases).

While not particularly worried about the possibility of a renewed regional armed conflict in Donbass, Russians do fear a world war, according to the Levada Center. As many as 62 percent of respondents in a March 2021 poll said they are either “rather scared of” or “have permanent fear of” a world war, with that fear ranking second among the list of respondents’ concerns.

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