Morale: Russians Who Say No to the Ukraine War


May 8, 2024: As the war in Ukraine grinds on, mounting Russian losses and the fact that Russia invaded a neighbor has angered a growing number of Russians. The government has declared such objections illegal in Russia because operations in Ukraine are considered an internal matter. Russia does not recognize Ukraine as an independent state but a part of Russia that is being manipulated by NATO countries. This is absurd to Ukrainians and that’s one of the many reasons why Ukraine wants nothing to do with Russia. NATO countries support Ukraine in that effort. Russia went to war with Ukraine in an expensive and so far, futile effort to settle the issue in Russia’s favor. More than two years of fighting have left more than a million people dead or injured, and both the Russian and Ukrainian economies badly damaged.

Inside Russia at least 20,000 Russians have been prosecuted and imprisoned for protesting or openly opposing the war. Most of the arrests took place during the first year of the war. There was a similar pattern of anti-war activity and arrests in 2014 when Russia seized Crimea and parts of two east Ukrainian provinces. In 2014 the Ukrainian quickly gathered what armed forces they could to block additional Russian advances into Ukrainian territory. The Russians returned in 2022 with an invasion meant to overrun all of Ukraine. That was halted and the Russian government insists it will not stop fighting until Ukraine is defeated and reabsorbed into Russia.

Ukrainian neighbors Poland and the three Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) are, according to Russia, the next targets. Attacking these countries would be a lot more difficult because these nations are members of NATO and have been increasing and upgrading their military forces.  Russia seems unconcerned that the attack on one NATO member is considered an attack on all 32 countries belonging to NATO. All but the United States and Canada are in Europe and all NATO countries have been supplying the Ukrainians with military and non-military aid. Poland has spent over $20 billion on new weapons and will soon have the largest force of modern tanks in Europe. Poland purchased the K2 tanks from South Korea along with hundreds of other armored vehicles, artillery, air defense and support equipment. Some equipment was purchased from the Americans, but the South Koreans have become a major manufacturer and exporter of modern weapons. Poland is now their biggest customer.

Russian civilians seem to pay more attention to the arms buildup in Poland than the Russian government. Russian leader Vladimir Putin dismisses the Polish military as insignificant. Historically, the Russian military has conquered Poland, or portions of Poland, many times. This time around Poland is better armed and more determined to resist Russian aggression than at any time in the past. Plus it is a member of NATO, which includes neighboring Germany and Denmark, as well as the Baltic States and on the other side of the Baltic Sea NATO members Sweden and Finland. Unlike World War II, when Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, Poland is not alone this time but Russia is. Poland has the 31 other NATO members as allies.

Putin dismisses the array of forces it faces as unlikely to fight or remain united. While that is the official attitude of the Russian government, most Russians did the math and realized Russia was greatly outnumbered by countries that had previously been attacked by Russian forces. During World War II Russia had allies like the United States, Britain, and many other European nations. Now Russia is alone and, while Vladimir Putin remains defiant, most other Russians are not willing to support a war against NATO any more than they support the war in Ukraine. Putin’s reaction is to remain defiant, no matter how many Russians will die. Arresting, prosecuting and jailing Russians who openly oppose Putin is a sign of weakness, not strength for Putin and his war effort in Ukraine. 





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