MOSCOW – Despite the fact that the United States warns that Russia could invade Ukraine any day, the drumbeat of war is almost unheard of in Moscow, where scientists and ordinary people do not expect President Vladimir Putin to attack his former Soviet neighbor.
The Kremlin has called U.S. warnings of imminent attack “hysteria” and “absurd,” and many Russians believe Washington is deliberately fueling panic and fueling tensions to provoke conflict for internal reasons.
Putin’s angry rhetoric about NATO’s plans to expand to Russia’s “threshold” and his refusal to hear Moscow’s concerns has shocked the public, affecting Western betrayal after the Cold War and widespread suspicion of Western plans.
Speaking to reporters after President Joe Biden’s conversation with Putin on Saturday, Kremlin foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov lamented what he called “US hysteria” over the alleged inevitable invasion, saying the situation was “absurd.”
The United States says Russia has concentrated more than 130,000 troops in eastern, northern and southern Ukraine and has the necessary firepower to launch an attack at any time.
Russian officials have angrily denied any plans to attack Ukraine and have dismissed Western concerns about growing near the country, arguing that Moscow is free to deploy its troops anywhere on its national territory.
“We do not understand why they are spreading false information about Russia’s intentions,” Ushakov said of US warnings of imminent attack.
In 2014, Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea after the overthrow of the Moscow-friendly president and took on the weight of a separatist uprising in Ukraine’s eastern industrial center, Donbass, which killed more than 14,000 people.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova took a more militant tone, condemning Washington’s warnings of Russia’s imminent attack on Ukraine as “propaganda for war” by the United States and some of its allies.
Zakharova argued that the United States “needs war at all costs,” saying that “provocations, misinformation and threats are their favorite methods of solving their own problems.”
She condemned allegations by US intelligence of an alleged “false flag” operation by Russia to create a pretext for invading Ukraine, comparing them to a 2003 speech by then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN Security Council. against Iraq, citing erroneous intelligence reports that Saddam Hussein secretly hid weapons of mass destruction.
“American politicians have lied, are lying and will lie,” Zakharova said.
Such rhetoric has been amplified by state television, where presenters say the U.S. plans are disgusting, accusing Washington and its allies of planning their own bogus operations to prompt hawk forces in Ukraine to launch an offensive to retake areas supported by separatist-backed Russian-backed countries.
Opinion polls show that most Russians share such views.
More than half of respondents in recent polls conducted by the leading independent firm Levada Center believe the US is responsible for the current confrontation around Ukraine, about 15% blame Ukraine and only 3% -4% believe it is Russia’s fault, in that while others have not been identified, its director Denis Volkov said in comments that aired earlier this month. Levada nationwide polls of about 1,600 people have an error of no more than 3.4 percentage points.
“Most people see the conflict as a conflict between Russia and the United States,” Volkov said, adding that respondents in focus group interviews said the United States could push Ukraine to attack insurgents in the east to bring Russia into battle.
Asked whether she was afraid of war, Moscow resident Anaida Gevargyan called it Western “propaganda.”
“Russia will never do that,” she said. “We are fraternal people and we have lived together for so many years.”
Russian political scientists generally reject US warnings about the war, noting that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will come at a high price without offering Putin any clear victories.
“For Moscow, the risks of invading Ukraine outweigh any possible benefits,” – said in a comment Moscow security analyst Sergei Paletayev.
Unlike Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 without a shot, and the conflict in the Donbas, where Moscow denies its military role, despite claims by Ukraine and the West to the contrary, a full-fledged invasion is bound to be a political and economic disaster for Russia.
While the Kremlin seems eager to return Ukraine to Moscow’s orbit, a massive offensive will inevitably result in huge casualties, undermining Russia’s global position, leading to its international isolation and destroying Putin’s position as a leader who cares about ordinary Ukrainians and sees in these two people as one.
“It is impossible to imagine a war with Ukraine,” said Moscow resident Vitaly Ladygin. “We all have relatives there, we have always lived together. I love Ukraine and dream of going there when it’s all over. “
An attack on Ukraine will certainly provoke draconian sanctions from the West, which will further cripple Russia’s stagnant economy, damage people’s incomes and undermine Putin’s support. And while it is to be expected that the Russian military will defeat a much weaker Ukrainian army, it will later inevitably face massive resistance, leading to a protracted conflict that will allocate Moscow’s scarce resources.
Sergei Karaganov, a Russian foreign policy analyst closely linked to the Kremlin’s thinking, said in recent comments that despite “the need to stop further expansion and militarization of Ukraine by NATO … we definitely do not plan to conquer Ukraine.”
Many Russian observers predict that instead of launching an invasion, Putin may try to maintain pressure on the West by deploying more troops and exercises to keep Ukraine away from NATO.
“Without achieving full diplomatic results and not daring to use force, Russia could turn its military presence near Ukraine into a constant or regularly renewed source of threat that will harm Ukraine, which Western aid will not be able to compensate,” Alexander Baunov of the Carnegie Moscow Center said in an analysis. . “It will also keep the West in suspense, and eventually Ukraine and the West can show more flexibility.”
Kirill Zarubin contributed to this report.
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