The Failure of Russia’s Media Elite
The war in Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda are closely linked. While combating the Kremlin’s lies will not by itself end the war or prevent Putin from starting new ones, he mustn’t be permitted to raze cities, murder thousands of civilians, and upend millions of lives with Russians’ approval.
MADRID – When the war in Ukraine began, I was shocked to learn that most Russians apparently supported President Vladimir Putin’s aggression. I experienced a similar feeling when Donald Trump won the 2016 US presidential election. My family was living in Los Angeles at the time, and everybody around me was stunned. For the next week, the constant traffic congestion disappeared, as if the entire city was in mourning.
Despite the differences between the two events, much of the Russian and US establishments reacted in a similar way. They did not want to believe that their fellow citizens could support the brutal invasion of a neighbor or the election of a populist blowhard.
Similarly, I initially did not believe Russian public-opinion polls showing that a majority of citizens supported the war in Ukraine. After all, polls in authoritarian states are unreliable. So, I started asking the opinion of acquaintances in Russia, all around 60 years old, with whom I had not been in touch for 20 years. To my surprise, 80-90% of them supported the war. These people have known me since I was born and were friends with my parents. But they preferred to listen to Russian state television than to my arguments.