Russians are tired of paying for a war in Syria with pensions

More than half of Russians support the end of the military operation in Syria. This is evidenced by data from a recent survey of the Levada Center.

According to the study, 55% of respondents believe that it is necessary to stop the operation in the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR). In August 2017, 49% of respondents shared this opinion.

Also, the share of those who fear that the operation in Syria could turn into a “new Afghanistan” for Russia has increased. If two years ago, 32% thought so, now this variant was voiced by 37% of the respondents. 30% of Russians believe that the operation in the SAR should be continued, 15% found it difficult to answer.

In addition, it turned out that 35% of Russians do not approve of Russia’s state policy towards Syria at all. 53% of respondents hold the opposite opinion, the rest have not decided.

Clearly visible and the tendency of falling public interest to what is happening in Syria. Over the year, the share of those who in one way or another follow these events has decreased from 86% to 61%. And only 13% of them “attentively observe” the latest news, while 48% of them “know little” about the events in the SAR.

The Pentagon realized that, unlike Moscow, Tehran has a weak army and cannot create an atomic bomb.

The April survey of the Levada Center was conducted among 1,625 people in 137 settlements in 50 regions using a personal interview.

Deputy Director of the Levada Center, Denis Volkov, commenting on the results of the survey, linked the fall in public interest to events in Syria with the end of the active phase of the operation and the decrease in the number of news about it. Although, in his opinion, the respondents initially poorly understood the goals of Russia in Syria and wanted to curtail the operation in the country.

– But in the absence of a bad news flow from there, the mood was more like this: do what you want in your Syria, the main thing is that it doesn’t concern us much, – the sociologist says.

And since now there is less news, both good and bad, from SAR, people stopped watching what was happening there, especially against the background of their own everyday problems.

Recall that Russia officially launched a military operation in Syria in 2015 after the appeal to her by the Syrian authorities. According to official figures, 112 Russian servicemen were killed during this time, half of them were victims of the An-26 and Il-20 disasters.

In December 2017, President Vladimir Putin, during a visit to the Russian military base in Syria, ordered the withdrawal of the Russian group. However, although part of the military left the republic, there remains the Russian contingent, which continues to perform combat missions. Currently, two Russian military bases are operating in Syria: the naval base in Tartus and the Hmeimim airbase.

How much money is spent on the operation in Syria is not officially known, since most of these costs are classified. At the initial stages of the operation, the Western media quoted that according to which Moscow spent between $ 2.4 million and $ 4 million every day in the SAR. On March 17, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the military operation in Syria cost Russia $ 478 million, or about $ 2.87 million per day. According to some estimates, for 30 months in Syria, Moscow spent more than $ 3 billion.

Pavel Salin, director of the Center for Political Studies at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, believes that if the Russians traced the link between the costs of the Syrian campaign and their own economic situation, the number of opponents to continue the operation in the SAR would be much greater. As for the fall of interests in what is happening in this country, it is explained by the fact that people began to pay much more attention to their own economic problems, rather than foreign policy.

– The authorities do not focus on public opinion in their foreign policy and military operations, so I do not think that this poll will have any effect. The only thing that can affect it is the intensity of coverage of such events in the media.

As for the Syrian operation specifically, the decline in interest in it is largely due to the fact that it has become less intensely covered in the media.

But here we have a vicious circle: it has become less intensively covered due to the fact that for about two years there has been a drop in public interest in external issues and an increase in internal ones. Therefore, the intensity of media coverage of the country’s foreign policy actions in regions with which there is no lively connection with Russian society, such as Syria, is declining.

Ukrainian subjects are still on the agenda, as ties with this country remain strong.

Despite all this, notice that the number of speakers for the withdrawal of Russian troops over the past two years has increased slightly. A six percent increase is not much.

– Why is this happening?

  • Because in the minds of people there is no connection between the Russian presence in Syria and the negative impact of this on their incomes.

As in the case of the Crimea, there is a conviction, which for obvious reasons, is supported by the authorities that an active foreign policy and, in particular, the Russian military presence in Syria is free.

The big question is how the authorities will act in the perspective of one to three years with a foreign policy line. The problem is not in the conduct of an active foreign policy as such, but in the fact that since 2014 it has actually replaced the internal one. And the current emerging public request is not that the government should give up foreign policy altogether, but that it leave it to professionals, diplomats and the military, but internal information that is relevant to each person dominated the information flow inside the country. People want the socio-economic agenda to be discussed first, and then Syria, Ukraine, and other issues.

This was justified in 2014, 2015, maybe even in the first half of 2016. But for more than two and a half years, this is not the case, and the information picture of Russian TV channels is increasingly in conflict with public demand. That is why other opinion polls show a drop in interest and trust in television.

In fact, pension reform has become a trigger, albeit a very serious one. There was a turn in public opinion no later than mid-2016. The Duma campaign almost did not affect the internal agenda, and the turnout was low. The authorities took this into account, and the internal and socio-economic agenda dominated the presidential campaign. This is the reason for the high turnout and high result of Vladimir Putin.

In all public events with the participation of the president, at least since the end of 2017, socio-economic issues have dominated. Another thing is that verbally the authority responds to the public inquiry, but in fact it does not. Either it reacts in exactly the opposite way, as with a pension reform or an increase in VAT. But the external agenda still dominates the information field.

It turns out a situation where the government responds to a public inquiry in form, but not in content. And the population wants the authorities not only to speak, but to solve social and economic problems. These growing scissors between the lack of response to public demand are constantly increasing, and the big question is what will they lead to in the coming years, especially in the conditions of transit of the political system.

Government is still passionate about foreign policy.

It is this topic that is interesting to the president, it can be seen even from his speeches, when he speaks about external aspects with enthusiasm, and he clearly speaks about the socio-economic aspects on the basis of the documents that he wrote.